Why do people volunteer? Why do they spend countless hours helping others without expecting a dime in return? For those of us who are volunteers or volunteer managers, this is a silly question. No amount of monetary compensation could ever match what we get in return for doing what we love to do.
Volunteering is Good for Your Health
When we volunteer, we know that we can save lives, support a cause, improve the environment or make a difference in our communities.
We not help others when we volunteer — we also help ourselves! We meet new people and learn new skills. And studies show that we can improve our health through volunteering. According to the Corporation for National and Community Service, volunteering has a positive effect on psychological and physical health.
Life Without Volunteers
My favorite piece of all time about the importance of volunteers, entitled Life Without Volunteers, was written by columnist Erma Bombeck.
I had a dream the other night that every volunteer in this country, disillusioned with the lack of compassion, had set sail for another country.
As I stood smiling on the pier, I shouted, “Goodbye, creamed chicken. Goodbye, phone committees. So long, Disease of the Month. No more saving old egg cartons. No more getting out the vote. Au revoir, playground duty, bake sales and three-hour meetings.”
As the boat got smaller and they could no longer hear my shouts, I reflected, “Serves them right. A bunch of yes people. All they had to do was put their tongue firmly against the roof of their mouth and make an O sound. Nnnooooo. Nnnnnnooooo. No! No! It would certainly have spared them a lot of grief. Oh well, who needs them!”
The hospital was quiet as I passed it. Rooms were void of books, flowers and voices. The children’s wing held no clowns, no laughter. The reception desk was vacant.
The home for the aged was like a tomb. The blind listened for a voice that never came. The infirm were imprisoned by wheels on a chair that never moved. Food grew cold on trays that would never reach the mouths of the hungry.
All the social agencies had closed their doors, unable to implement their programs for Scouting, recreation, drug control, Big Sisters, Big Brothers, YWCA, YMCA, the retarded, the crippled, the lonely and the abandoned.
The health agencies had a sign in the window: “Cures for cancer, muscular dystrophy, birth defects, multiple sclerosis, emphysema, sickle cell anemia, kidney disorders, heart diseases, etc. have been canceled due to lack of interest.”
The schools were strangely quiet, with no field trips, no volunteer aides on the playground or in the classroom — as were the colleges, where scholarships and financial supporters were no more.
The flowers on church altars withered and died. Children in day nurseries lifted their arms but there was no one to hold them in love. Alcoholics cried out in despair, but no one answered, and the poor had no recourse for health care or legal aid.
But the saddest part of all the journal was the symphony hall, which was dark and would remain that way. So were the museums that had been built and stocked by volunteers with the art treasures of our times.
I fought in my sleep to regain a glimpse of the ship of volunteers just one more time. It was to be my last glimpse of civilization… as we were meant to be.
(Best of Bombeck, June 24, 1975)
Volunteer — it will ge good for your community and it will be good for you!
Volunteer Opportunities in Austin
These links should help you find the perfect volunteer opportunity for you.