Below is a recent essay I wrote for submission to http://www.thisibelieve.org, which is a public dialogue that accepts short essays about personal beliefs. If your essay is selected it will be published on the website and possibly read on NPR. I had to do it for a SW class, but will most likely submit again in the future.
Check out my submission:
This I Believe: Volunteering is a gift that keeps giving
I believe that, much like a venereal disease, volunteering is the gift that keeps giving. Before you go out and get herpes, let me preface:
After a life-shattering divorce, I was left directionless in all aspects of my life; which encompassed a dead-end job, being overweight and friendless and a non-existent love life. This is when I surrendered to my friend’s unending requests to volunteer at the Baton Rouge Crisis Intervention Group, a local suicide hotline, as a para-professional crisis interventionist.
The application process was quite difficult, rightfully so, as the callers’ lives were often at stake. However, the most challenging part for me was the in-person interviews. The social workers were very selective with admissions, so naturally, I was uneasy given my current life situation. The interview was daunting, ranging from what I thought of volunteering to my favorite color. Honestly, I do not recall much from the interview, however, my recent separation and divorce took precedence. At one point, the interviewer asked what I had to offer the crisis center. It took me several seconds to formulate my thoughts, then I explained: I cannot build houses for needy families because I do not know how to build, I cannot help poor families with legal issues because I am not a lawyer, all I have to offer is myself. Looking back, this question was a turning point for my view on the importance of volunteering.
I do not remember leaving the interview or getting into my car. I just remember feeling confused, sad, broken and inevitably alone. At that moment I felt the deepest hurt I have felt in my entire life, that is when I wanted to become a volunteer.
I understand that Maslow’s hierarchy of needs indicates that social and community gratification are met after all other, essential, needs are satisfied, but forget Maslow. I knew that surrendering to volunteerism would help me get to the place I wanted to be and I took a chance, much like the social workers at the Crisis Center, when they took a chance on me. I got approved to enter into the Summer 2009 training class to become a phone counselor; I was more than ecstatic.
I find it necessary has a human to give to others. I believe volunteering should be a requirement to graduate high school, but more importantly, I believe it is a pre-requisite for a happier life. At the ending of the movie Evan Almighty the main character asked God “how to change the world?” And God responded, “with one act of random kindness at a time.” Although, this is a great motto to live by, I think volunteering is about making a conscious effort to serve someone less fortunate than you. It is very difficult at times, but volunteering benefits the volunteer and the recipient of that act, which makes everything worthwhile. Volunteering made me a better version of myself and I believe in volunteerism.