It’s the holiday season all around the world. Another year has come to an end. They always seem to do that, while we often struggle to stay safe, healthy, and employed and obtain the resources for our daily existence.
Some of us are at peace, some are not. Some of us will be with family, some will not. Some of us will have gatherings with lots of food and gifts and others will not. The point is that we can always look to the left and see one life or look to the right and see another. But when we can get out and volunteer, bring ourselves into the volunteering spirit, and get out of our own head and do good service for someone or something else, we can find it much easier to find and hold onto gratitude despite our own current situation. Simply put, because we can volunteer we always have reason for gratitude (which provides hope) and here are four quick reasons why.
1. You Are Able to Volunteer! Because you have the ability to do something for others you obviously have enough health to move around and provide some service. Because you can volunteer you have the ability to make a choice with at least some of your time, you have enough freedom to decide to give to something or someone else. And, because you can volunteer you must be financially well off enough, must have at least a few resources so that you do not have to work (or sleep or eat) for at least some moments of time. In short, because you can volunteer, you can be grateful.
2. You Have Opportunity. Because there are opportunities to volunteer means that some group is looking out for your future. One should be grateful that the organizations exist to help others and provide services, and perhaps more importantly, for one’s own self interest, that these organizations and opportunities exist to volunteer somewhere all the time. There are literally hundreds and hundreds of thousands of non-profit groups globally serving humanity, ecosystems, and just about everything you can imagine. So there is no reason for anyone to say, “I can’t find something I would like to volunteer for.”
For example, near where I worked for a while, in Indianapolis, Indiana, USA, there are ~15,000 non-profit groups of some sort. There is no shortage of causes, so find yours. Be grateful that these groups exist, for if you are not in need today, you will be tomorrow—financially, materially, or spiritually, everyone needs somebody sometime for something, and often in a hurry. Help today; make a deposit of sorts, for when you need help tomorrow, and be grateful there is a lifesaver that exists for you and others.
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3. You Do Have Power—some small amount of usefulness, anyway, to make a difference. One of my mentors on the Fort Belknap Reservation in North Central Montana, USA took me a long way into his world a decade or so back and when I inquired why I got so much attention from him as an outsider he simply said, “One changes the world one person at a time.” There were many things he taught me that he hoped I would then pass on to others. While we are powerless in so many ways—we do have the power to make at least one choice this season. We can choose to do some volunteering and perhaps enhance just one other person’s current situation.
4. Finally, and from a previous blog—8 Ways Volunteering Helps Volunteers—we can find many reasons to be grateful. If for nothing else, we can see that Volunteering Helps Us Help Ourselves. Seems a little hedonic, eh? Ahh, but we do not worry, because we believe as soon as you get out to attempt to capture some of these benefits for yourself, a funny thing happens—the spirit of volunteerism and service will take over and you will find some compassion, empathy and, we suspect, some gratitude. That gratitude might show up as some quiet peacefulness—but it is there, and you will find your way back to serve another day, as it is somewhat addictive. We suggest in our book “Volunteering” that the only thing that is not fleeting in life is the service we provide, and most critically, when we provide that service to another human who is less fortunate.
In summary then, give gratitude a shot. We gave you several reasons above to grab some of the infinite amount of gratitude provided to us everywhere if we only listen, look, and provide service. That mentor I mentioned above had me get up each day and simply be grateful that the sun came up. Seems a bit Pollyanna for a scientist, as we all know why the sun comes up—right, but that was his point (among others). I was forced to think of something outside of me and right in front of me and right away in the morning that I often took for granted. In that way, he had me establish a mindset for the day so that perhaps I made better choices all day. Choices folks, make some choices, change the world—or at least some very, very small part of it—while helping yourself find and then reinforce gratefulness.
Have a great holiday season, a Happy New Year, and thanks for following. We will start the New Year blog with how to celebrate your tasks, wins, and even losses meaningfully with your teams and organizations. Until then, take a day, or two or three—get out of yourself—teach your kids, teach another, drag another along and provide some service through some small bit of volunteering.
About the author: Karl’s volunteer experience spans three decades. He recently retired as a chief strategy officer, after having implemented the strategic plan of a 1500+ employee service sector organization. He is now a principal with Sunshine Valley Communications, www.sunshinevalley.org. He has taught courses in management, business and economics, operations research, and project management. He holds degrees in engineering and economics and is near completion of a second book on the management of highly competitive environments. He has provided strategic planning, project management and technical assistance to numerous volunteer organizations and communities and has written extensively on the subject. Karl resides in the Missouri Ozarks and can be reached at kburgher@SunshineValley.org.
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