Finding Myself by Losing Myself in the Service of Others

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Quite frankly, this picture is here to look pretty and fill up some space. Apparently the theme I chose tends to leave an unattractive gray space if there isn’t a photo so there you have it. Plus, it is nice to have something pretty to look at. This is probably why I find myself staring at Johnny Depp photos for so long… hmm.

Okay so my real point – I feel compelled to share with everyone my love of volunteering, how I got to that point and why it’s going to play a role in my new self-discovery. I highly recommend volunteering for anyone. It’s good for the soul and you may just learn a few things you didn’t know about, including about yourself.

When I was 19 and young and impressionable, I spent my sophomore spring break doing some volunteer work with a group called Alternative Spring Break. This was not my idea, it was my friend’s. She was a leader for the group that was going and invited me to go along as I didn’t have any of my own plans. It still amazes me how I ended up on that trip. I went along because my friend was going and thought sure why not volunteer. That’s cool. I really didn’t understand what that trip would do for me or how much it would mature me. It’s amazing how I made any decisions in college because I was so naive and really had no real clue what I got myself into most of the time.I’m just glad that none of my decisions included any real high risk behavior, well minus the door-to-door sales job but that’s for another post.

I digress. That spring break I ended up on a life-changing trip that opened up my eyes to volunteering and it’s significance. I ended up taking that trip three times. I went with groups to Detroit to work with inner-city kids to talk about violence prevention and education promotion. It was a real eye opener for many reasons, but I gained from it two quotes, both from Gandhi. The first one: “We must be the change we wish to see in the world,” and the second: “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” The latter is the one I really want to focus on for the moment.

I’m currently on my own journey of re-self-discovery, if that’s even a word. For the purpose of this post/blog it is. In the last few months I realized just how much of a slump I’ve really been in and it’s been years (see my post -my new journey). Being in a rut isn’t so much fun and I’d really rather not stay that way. I started thinking about how I got to this point and how do I fix it. Well, ever since college, I always wanted to do more volunteering. I probably gained more from those kids who were forced to grow up too fast because of the violence in their neighborhoods than I ever could have taught them, yet it was the most rewarding experience I’d had. I just haven’t ever really done anymore volunteering, until last year.

My mom told me about a group called Soldiers’ Angels a few years ago. I was real interested but finally never acted on it – I think that was the rut playing a role. After feeling particularly patriotic last May, I decided why not join this group and support the troops. I looked into and found their letter writing team. I thought – perfect! I love to write and who doesn’t like to get a letter in the mail? Also, I’m such a big fan of handwritten letters – the nostalgia with it but also it shows someone cares enough to take time to write – kind of sad commentary of our day. So that’s what I do. I write letters to deployed military personnel and I love it. I loved it to the point that I know also adopted a soldier and I write to this individual every week and send at least one care package a month in addition to the other letters.

This volunteering helped me open my eyes to how much more I want to do. I looked upon that quote, that all important quote that I really feel in love with and truly believe in to the point that I wanted to emulate my life based on it and realized I hadn’t been doing that. I want to do that.  I believe Mark Twain said it best when he said “The best way to cheer yourself up is to try and cheer up someone else.” This ties in so well with that Gandhi was saying. I don’t want to volunteer for the sheer idea of cheering myself up, though my guess is that will be a nice plus. I had a dark moment not long ago, feeling like crap and I thought to myself that the only redeemable quality I have is being a good friend (I have since realized I do have other redeeming qualities but that’s for another entry). I thought, “how in the hell do I make that be something worthwhile for me?” That’s when I realized that volunteering is really about being a good friend so to speak. I can do that.

I finally hit a moment today when I think things are really going to turn around for me. I called a woman from the Prescott, Ariz., VA hospital. I’ll cut out all the details for brevity’s sake, but ultimately I’m stoked about the possibilities to volunteer for them! Writing and photography may well play a part along with whatever other tasks may come around but all of which include interacting with the folks who served our country. What an honor! I don’t like war, weapons or related things, BUT, I do have a lot of respect for those who are willing to sacrifice so much for my well being. It says a lot about that individual. I figure the least I can do is return the favor by helping them out when they need it.

So there you have it. Here’s to serving others and finding myself along the way.

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3 responses to “Finding Myself by Losing Myself in the Service of Others

  1. Jen, huge proponent of volunteering here; as a teen I volunteered in politics, at a cable station, radio station (fund raiser), a jail, a nursing home…..and on and on…

    Ya know what happened when I got older; I started wondering why the people who ran some of those volunteer programs got the salaries they got….and the volunteers (who were almost always the lifeblood of the work) were largely ignored.

    I was never looking for a job…but many of my co-volunteers were, and in my opinion they were much more qualified and passionate than the paid workers…..

    oh well…your post just reminded me of all that.

    • its always unfortunate to hear about people losing the point but i suppose it happens because it moves from being a career to a job; from something you like to do to something you HAVE to do and yes that tends to kill it; i suppose thats why i’d prefer to keep it as not being paid haha. though this lady did mention some possible future work opportunities and i thought that would be great too so we shall see; thanks for commenting!

  2. Pingback: Remembering Why It’s Memorial Day and Volunteering | stormy musings·

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