A teacher prepared a lesson for his 2nd-grade students. Greetings have finished, the noise has settled, the lesson is about to begin. The students are eager, motivated, and curious to know what is in store. Before the lesson can be done, some work has to be fulfilled: pass out papers, distribute colored pencils, glue, and scissors. When he asks for volunteers, hands race upwards. “Me!” “Me! “Me!” Hands wave to catch the teacher’s attention. “Oh!, Profe. Me!” Hands compete to be the highest. A teacher calls upon his volunteers and they all answer.
When did we stop caring about being volunteers?
Why are we not so eager to volunteer ourselves to help complete a goal for someone in our community? O.K. we have more responsibilities in our adult lives, but let’s get back that excitement we had at the age of seven when it came to volunteering. What ensues from here will be some context to encourage that inner spirit of servitude to come forth. “Why am I the one to light that flame for volunteering?” You might ask. Well, the first reason is I like to play with fire, so I’ll enjoy sparking that flame. The second, I have many diverse experiences volunteering.
Volunteering can be done with an organization or without.
More commonly I have done volunteering without. Aside from volunteering a few minutes of my time to help strangers stranded on the side of the road, I have also found larger projects to work on by talking with strangers.
One night at a bar in Madrid I overheard someone talking about Granada, the most beautiful place I have seen outside of Texas. I broke the ice by saying something similar to the woman speaking. We began a conversation and she continued to inform that she recently purchased an orchard in the Alpujarras mountain range in Granada. She works around Spain and doesn’t have much time to put in work at the orchard. She gave me a brief description of what her daily routine was at the orchard. When she does get to the free time to visit her little heaven on earth: she works her ass off. My mind raced around, she needs help but won’t ask for it. I’m a teacher. I have summers off. I looked at her in absolute admiration for the passion she has for her project. I wanted to help.
At this point, the spirits began to talk and I mentioned that I would love to spend some time there and help her out. I didn’t know what I got into. We exchanged numbers and that was that. No communication for four months.
Eventually, I took Hemingway’s advice,
“Always do sober what you said you do drunk.”
I broke off the end of the quoted advice and two weeks before I arrived, I contacted the woman from the bar to inform her of my arrival date. I did the deed. Two weeks of living in the mountains, working in an orchard and assisted in constructing a home.
This woman was moved by just one helping hand willing to go the distance to assist another. In return, completely unexpected, she provided me with an opportunity to experience parts of Spain most people who live there never get to experience. For that, I am grateful for helping out a stranger who is now a friend. Befriending Judith strengthened my relationship within my own community. She opened up her life for me by introducing me to locals in the nearest town of Almuñecar. Essentially that is what volunteering is about; helping others with a task without receiving payment, just like those 2nd graders.
Please, don’t get my words twisted and believe that it is necessary to talk to strangers at a bar to find volunteer experiences or that a leap of faith must be taken in order to be a volunteer. Not at all. Use your personal skill set to reach out into your community then provide a service for someone that needs it. Volunteering to rake the leaves of the little old lady down the street, stupendous! Volunteering two seconds to hold open the door for that person with hands full of groceries, fantastic! The possibilities are endless. In reality, any positive action towards another human being will help build your community while strengthening your relationships in it. If this is you already, great job! We can use more people like you.