On the heels of volunteer week, I have been reflecting on what I get out of volunteering: I hope the organizations I volunteer for benefit from my efforts, but I wanted to examine what’s in it for me. I know it adds to the sum total of my happiness, making it a win-win.
I volunteer because I have enjoyed success and I attribute that success not only to my own will, but to circumstances and institutions and support. We were not wealthy growing up, but we were free from want and able to concentrate on our ambitions. Education was free or affordable and of a quality that meant no opportunity was not open to us. The playing field may not have been level, but the climb was manageable, and we got lots of help.
Some did not. Some lost parents to sickness, accident, or mental health, or experienced want, through circumstances beyond their control, that derailed their educations. Others faced physical and mental health challenges of their own. For some, the climb was not manageable, and there was no one there to help. There are myriad possible barriers to a productive and happy life, and sometimes they are too much, no matter how strong the will.
The United Way addresses all these challenges to help build a healthy community where all have opportunity. In a world where outcomes can be dramatically different, volunteering at the United Way lets me help level the playing field. In the belief that I am helping others have the chance for success and happiness, I am better able to enjoy my own.