Senior Center

Finding Time to Volunteer

By Jan Bolder - December 11, 2013

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Giving your time to others can be one of the most valuable gifts you can give, no matter what your age. Here's why:

Connection to Others Our social skills don't just grow on their own, and need the presence of others as a boost. By volunteering for and with others, you're feeding the essence of what a social creature needs: contact and support from others. And however much you think you're getting out of it, the ones benefiting from your services are receiving it a thousand times more.

Forming a Community Where you live makes up a great deal of who you are, for better or worse. It's awfully hard to distance yourself from your community, and far too easy to become critical of it if you're not involved. You don't have to run for mayor or alderman, but volunteering helps you get to know the faces of the people who also share your community. And without strong communities, cities are nothing. Could you imagine New York City without its communities of Park Slope, Bedford-Stuyvesant or Flushing Meadows?

Understanding While it's true that no two people are alike, we all have far more in common with each other than we do differences. To quote Shakespeare (Merchant of Venice), Shylock said it best: "Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions?" While you don't have to like everyone you meet, volunteering is a good way of understanding that at the end of the day, we're all pretty similar to each other.

Personal Development You can be just starting your career or wrapping up decades of one, but volunteer exists atemporally of all jobs. Volunteering also goes beyond the personal confines you've set for yourself, teaching you to stretch past boundaries as you become exposed to new situations and people. And for college grads, volunteering can be a great way of boosting your resume.

Escapism Maybe your personal life isn't so good, or you're dealing with a work situation that's particularly tough and unpleasant. By volunteering, you're creating an outlet for yourself where you can escape the outside world and hunker down in safety. For a little bit each day or week, volunteering gives you a safe place where you're doing good, real, productive things for others.

There's always some place for everyone to volunteer at, no matter their age or skill level. By committing to even just a couple hours each week, you'll be benefiting in more ways than one.