Monday, 29 February 2016

One road to happiness - making a difference by volunteering.

This was published in The York Press on Tuesday, March 1st 2016.
When Terry Wogan died recently, some of his quotes were mentioned in articles about his life. I liked this one: “The way to happiness is to give yourself to others and to think of others before you think of yourself.”  I would add that also needing some ‘own time’ and ‘own space’ is not being selfish. It’s about having a balanced lifestyle to be emotionally healthy.

This brings me back to the subject of volunteering, the topic of this column last July. At the time, I was considering some local volunteering opportunities. It took time while all the necessary checks were carried out and in one case, some training. Patience was required. Seven months later, I am a visitor for Victim Support and a volunteer hospital play worker. 

The hospital work brings me great joy and I didn’t even know this position was available. Perhaps some of you are not aware of how you could volunteer. I thought of people I know and the voluntary work they do. It may give you some ideas too. 

  • Working in hospitals. Running a website. Dog walking. Pet sitting.
  • Local environmental projects. Helping in schools. Shopping. Gardening. 
  • Youth groups. Hospital driver. Victim Support visitor. Charity shops.
  • A Trustee of a charity. Community projects. Local service organisations.
  • Local and National campaigns. Library assistants. Support groups.
  • Religious groups. Local theatre groups. Writing. Political groups.
  • Charity shops. Sports clubs and events. Prison visiting. Teaching.
  • Historic buildings and gardens. Advocacy groups. Singing groups.

There is something for everyone and with a variety of time commitment.  Perhaps you’re tempted, but don’t think you could be of any help. You can help. You have skills that could help others. You can make a difference. When the enormity of the world’s problems seem too much, I recall this story.

A man was walking along a beach. As he walked, he could see a boy in the distance and he noticed that the boy kept bending down, picking something up and throwing it into the water. As the man walked nearer, he was able to see that the boy was picking up starfish that had been washed up on the beach and, one at a time he was throwing them back into the water. The man asked the boy what he was doing, the boy replied," I am throwing these washed up starfish back into the ocean, or else they will die through lack of oxygen. "But", said the man, "You can't possibly save them all, there are thousands on this beach. You can't possibly make a difference." The boy smiled, bent down and picked up another starfish, and as he threw it back into the sea, he replied, “I’ve made a difference to that one.”


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