I think that deep inside, we all have a basic need to feel that we have made a positive difference in the lives of others. For many people, especially those whose lives have been shaped in the 'ME' generation, this need to help others is not always easy to admit, even to ourselves. We search for a way to fill this empty hole in our souls, but often we're not even sure what is supposed to be there. Sadly, failure to fulfill this need in ourselves can lead to depression, anxiety and feelings of inadequacy.
I recently read a post from a friend who served our country as a medic in the Iraq war. He was confused by the fact that a part of him actually missed being over there in combat. He felt that he was missing purpose in his life. My comment on his post was that maybe it wasn't 'purpose' he was missing, but that feeling of being needed, and of making a positive difference in other people's lives. I'm sure that many soldiers feel this loss upon return to civilian life, none more than the medics who are there saving lives among the horrors of battle.
Fortunately, there are many ways that even the poorest, or busiest of us can be of benefit to, or can come to the assistance of others ... and in doing so, give to ourselves one of life's greatest gifts.
Volunteering Is The Key
When you hear the word volunteer, you probably think of a specific example that you have either witnessed or been a part of in your life. A basic definition of of the word, is to give freely of one's time and energy in the service of others. The beauty of selflessly giving to others, is that you actually get back so much more than you give.
Many people volunteer in our communities every day, and provide wonderful services to those in need, from the men and women who bravely assist in putting out fires when they strike, to those who help the sick and injured in our local health care facilities. From the teenagers who provide transportation and guidance so that neighborhood children can attend the youth group at their church, to the retired folks who prepare food at local community dinners and help feed the homeless and hungry, these people have all found a way to give back - and in doing so have not only made the world a better place, but have become better people themselves.
These are just some of the more common methods of giving to each other that we are familiar with, but there are other ways to give that you may not have considered.
Think Outside The Box
As an example of a way to give without actually giving up anything but time (and maybe a few unneeded calories), consider this ...
I use to take my grandkids to the local playground. Here I would see a number of parents, grandparents and guardians sitting on the benches as the children played. Instead of just watching, I chose to play too. I would become the 'motor' for the merry-go-round, the 'swing machine', the 'customer' at the sand-soup restaurant, and occasionally the 'monster' under the bridge. Did it cost me anything? No. But it did provide endless entertainment for the whole playground ... and believe me, nothing makes kids smile more than seeing a fat old grandpa go down the slide headfirst. I spent some time, had some fun, and imparted not only lots of smiles and laughter to the children, but I taught them that they don't ever have to be too old to play, to make-believe and to have fun with one another.
Now you may not consider this to be volunteering, but I will have to disagree. It may not have been recordable on any charity's hourly report of service time, but it filled a spot inside me that really felt good not to have empty, and I had a blast (even if I did need a couple Ibuprofen afterward).
Use What You Have
We all have talents, abilities, skills and/or knowledge that we can use to make our communities better places. A lot of us spend a great many hours selling our services to our employers in order to provide for our families and ourselves, and far too few hours giving of ourselves in order to provide a better world to live in.
Why not use your passion or talents to see if maybe you can't make another person smile and feel better today? Myself, I'm not bad at creating images on my computer, and I now devote a large percentage of this skill to creating special 'Angel Images' for those who have lost loved ones. It's not much, and it won't change lives, but it does something special for those who are hurting, and maybe helps ease their suffering a tiny bit. This is done as a labor of love, and these special keepsake images are given to the families without any expectation of payment, a gift that I thank God I have, and freely give away.
At the end of the day, if you can look back and see that you were able to make someone's life better, even in the smallest way, then its been a day well spent. You will come away with something real and good and fulfilling, and not a hungry hole inside. Your gift doesn't need to be shouted out, because you know in your heart that it was given from your soul.
This is a firm belief that comes,
From Grandpa's Heart ...