Volunteer? Yes! Volunteer. Monday, January 15th is Martin Luther King Day – a day which many Americans are off of work, and most school children are off of school. So, rather than going to the inevitable “blow-out sales” or finding other ways to part with your money, why not get into the spirit of the day and volunteer?

Volunteering Matters

Volunteering can be a great family activity that teaches children to respect and honor those less fortunate than themselves. It can also offer great personal satisfaction when you know that you’ve helped someone in need or supported a cause that matters to you. Yet, more and more, non-profits and social services agencies report that it’s difficult to find people who want to give of their time. I once asked a colleague if he wanted to join me in a volunteer project that involved construction and he told me “Oh, I’m very handy…with my check book.” And then he gave me a generous check and a smile. 

I was grateful for the check, every little bit helps. But it also struck me that some people don’t want to “get their hands dirty.” Why is that? Sometimes the need can feel overwhelming and we can’t decide where our time could be best spent. If you go to a soup kitchen or homeless shelter, yes, you are sure to witness some heartbreaking despair. That’s painful. And, perhaps putting on gloves, an apron and a hairnet isn’t necessarily “fun.” Agreed. But it’s worth it.

Why Volunteer? 

Here’s something you may not know if you’ve never stepped up and joined a group on MLK Day:

1. You’ll meet the best people when you volunteer, and I mean the very best people.  Some of those fine people will be among those you help. Their spirit and positive attitude in the face of adversity will inspire you. And some will be among your fellow volunteers – you’ll meet people you might not otherwise encounter. You may find shared interests or be uplifted by their stories. Their commitment and dedication might lead you to do more, if only to be in the company of such special folks.

2. As a volunteer, you can gain some new experience you might not otherwise have a chance to try. Years ago I learned EXCEL when I volunteered at a non-profit and they put me in the back office. I’ve used it ever since, yet at that point in my early career, I never would have at that opportunity at work because it wasn’t “job-related.”

3. Volunteering is a great way to check out an organization if you’re considering a non-profit career. And the organization’s decision-makers are nearly always at volunteer events.

4. Volunteering is a proven way to get over yourself! If you’re down in the dumps about your career, or feeling low about a lost job opportunity, volunteering and helping those less fortunate than you can definitely put things in perspective. It’s a good opportunity to practice gratitude and remember all that you have.

Finally, it’s also a fact that volunteer activities are something that look great on a resume. And, who knows, you might even meet someone who could help you out! Just saying…