How To Change Your World
Beginner's Guide to Getting Involved
We all want to make the world a better place (except on those days where we wouldn't mind watching it burn, either), but such a concept seems impossible and nostalgic, at best. Corruption, fraud, human selfishness, and an endless cycle of pain often seem to crush any effort to try and stop the sky from falling, and the political and spiritual leaders who say they are here to help often end up doing us more harm than good. However, I'm not here to sell snake oil or tell you of a balm from some middle eastern shore, but I am here to say that there is a way for you to make a real and lasting difference in the world. That is. Your world.
You look around at lives falling apart; drug and substance abuse on a rampage, families crumbling before the glue even has time to set, and a genuine feeling of hopelessness in almost everyone you meet. But if you let that stop you, then you've already lost. It is within the tarnished and dirty rock that we find the rare gem. You have to look deeper if you're going to find anything of value.
Enters the local not-for-profit.
You've heard of volunteer-run programs like Habitat for Humanity, or the recently critiqued Meals on Wheels. How about the Salvation Army, Ronald McDonald House, state Food Bank, or even your local soup kitchen? These places are run by individuals on low budget salaries who rely on the help of volunteers to supply a service to those in the community who would, unfortunately, do without if they were not there. Some local churches or community groups get involved, as well. They provide basic needs to people who aren't in a position to help themselves, all in an effort to do unto others as they would have done unto them.
"This all sounds great," you say, "but what does this have to do with me?" Well, my friend, it, in fact, has everything to do with you. For whatever reason, there are less and less volunteers coming in to lend some time and a helping hand. Maybe its because of our fast-paced lifestyles—we simply have no time for those in need. Perhaps it's because, in our pleasantly convenient society, we reject anything inconvenient unless absolutely necessary. It could be that you're a genuinely busy individual and spending more time away from the important things in your life is simply off the negotiating table.
These are all perfectly legitimate reasons why you are not involved in your local nonprofit, but here are some reasons why you should be.
1. It makes a difference.
You can ask anyone who has ever been involved in volunteer work. Better yet, you can see it in the smiles and the eyes of the individuals involved. For the recipients of care, it can be as serious as difference between life and death. For some recipients, it can mean the difference between a warm bed and full stomach, or a cold street and hunger panes. For the volunteer, it makes a difference in the way you see the world around you; Homeless people are now just people with a different story to tell, the elderly are a treasure trove of wisdom and experience, while the disabled are just as normal as you and are simply hoping to find an understanding friend. We might not be able to change the world, but we can certainly change the way we view it.
2. It builds a sense of community.
I can't tell you how many interesting and fantastic people I have met through volunteering—people from all walks of life, both receiving and giving of their time, all coming together for one goal. The friendships forged from working alongside and for these people are never fading, and it's an opportunity to meet some of the most interesting and unselfish individuals you will ever have the pleasure to meet. Its also a great way to incorporate the family. Who says you can't build memories while building your community? There are plenty of ways for kids to get involved, and elderly folks especially love to meet and interact with children who often remind them of children and grandchildren that they may not get to see very often. Not to mention, it sets a good example for the next generation.
3. You just might need it someday.
You never know what might happen. There were 56.7 million disabled people living in the United States as of 2010. You have a 20 percent chance to be that statistic. Even if you escape being disabled from an accident or something like that, old age is hard to avoid if you have any plans to stay alive very long. Another important thing to remember is that poverty can be an inescapable reality for some of us. It would be a shame to be in a situation where you needed help from one of these organizations, only to find out that it was no longer in operation due to lack of volunteer help.
4. It looks good on applications and resumes.
It might be seen as a selfish motivation, but it doesn't make it any less true. Volunteer work will make you stand out on an application, especially if you are starting off at an entry level job.
So whatever your reason or excuse, get involved. Make a difference. Volunteer.