Do you volunteer? I mean with time, and your heart and energy behind a cause? If not why not? That is a question I had to answer. I always saw myself as the kind of person who would volunteer. I have causes, and activities I am passionate about. I care about my community and the greater good.
Truth was I had no problem volunteering for my profession. I gave a lot to water related organizations in time and leadership. Though I care passionately about my career field and water, it is not all I care about. It was the only place I volunteered. I had to take a hard look at that.
What I found was not that flattering. It was easy to volunteer in my profession because work allowed it and the time investment I made, with small exceptions, was time I would have dedicated to my job. The time I had trouble dedicating was my own. I believed in these things and causes and certainly believed that people should give back in their community. It just seemed whenever I really had an opportunity I thought more about what I would have to give up, my time, and my resources.
This idea did not align with what I have been working on, so head long into volunteering I had to jump. I decided to pursue two things. First was a joint venture with my husband. This way volunteering was something we could do together. Two years ago we started coaching a running club at his school. The school is a low-income school, primarily hispanic population. We coach a running club through Atlanta Track Club every Friday for twenty weeks a year. It turned out to be fun. We get to do something we enjoy, run. We get to inspire that love of running in kids and we can be a support and role model for at risk kids. Since this happens Friday after work and with my husband the dreaded time loss was minimized. After that success I decided to do something I have wanted to do for years, volunteer in animal rescue. Specifically, volunteer with cats.
This was not something I would do with my husband and not something I could do within work hours. I was going have to give of my time, my heart, and my personal resources. I started small by attending a training and volunteering for a couple of spaced out outreach events for Good Mews, a local cage-free, No Kill shelter. As I began to volunteer I found that I did not really lose anything like I feared. I gained so much more. I now volunteer regularly as a team lead for programs like Reading to Cats and Yoga with Cats. I recently became a Kitty Buddy committing 30 minutes a week to help a shy and under socialized cat get used to people so they are more adoptable.
I have really gotten more out of these volunteer experiences, than I give. For the professional volunteering I have gained contacts, leadership experience, and knowledge. From the running club I have a shared experience with my husband, exercise, and I get to participate with his school which helps me appreciate what he does more. At Good Mews I am truly helping a cause close to my heart. I have made new friends and talk about a stress reducer: lunch hour spent with 100 cats. Maybe not for everybody but for me. If you think you can’t volunteer, start slowly. I have found that I feel more aligned with what I always said I believe is important.