It’s a week of thanks, which means that it’s a good time to give back. Kind of like how my Gram always put special cookies out for everyone on Bingo night when it was her birthday, but on a larger scale. I’m talking about giving back by serving the community. I hope that my books help readers feel less alone and feel better about their lives in some small way. But there are lots of other ways I can contribute to society.
Ever since I was a kid, I’ve had a passion for volunteer work. I was a Girl Scout from Brownies to Leader-In-Training. In the summers, I was a candy striper. I trained as an EMT. Then Ryan White died and I knew I would be an AIDS activist. In college, I volunteered with ActionAIDS as a buddy and home helper. After I moved here, I became an educational outreach volunteer and curriculum developer for GMHC, the captain of my school’s AIDS Walk team, and the arts and crafts director at a camp for kids affected by HIV and AIDS. There were a bunch of other short-term things over the years as well.
And then…I just got overwhelmed. I was teaching and writing and totally exhausted trying to do both. Something had to change. I took a hiatus from volunteering, telling myself I’d go back in a year. Five years later, I’m ready to return. I wasn’t sure what my new volunteering would focus on. I thought about reading to children at the hospital or to older people at the senior center, returning to the Girl Scouts as a leader, working with Big Brothers Big Sisters, or mentoring. Then I found a wonderful organization that assists local seniors. The idea of working with them felt right. So I’m applying to be a shopper and escort, which mainly involves helping clients get to the doctor, grocery shopping, and running errands. Regular readers know that I don’t do winter, but the thought of someone being unable to get out for groceries when it’s cold breaks my heart. A lot of older people here are all alone. I would walk through all kinds of frozen precipitation if it means that someone will be taken care of.
Here’s why I’m talking about this. If you’ve been thinking about volunteering, now is the time. I really regret those years I let slip away without doing more. Time can be sneaky like that. So take control. You can find volunteer opportunities in your area at Do Something or Volunteer Match. We can all find room in our lives to help make the world a better place. The world needs you.