One thing that has struck me of recent times is that we are all different to each other. When I go to the local mens shed, I see men who know exactly how to use those wood cutting or finishing machines. Mostly, I don’t have a clue, though given enough time, I could probably work it out. But there was a drill there the other day that wouldn’t work and I managed to fix it in about 5 minutes. I’m not sure how many of the blokes who use the wood machines could have fixed the drill. The point is, we are all different from each other. We have different skills, personalities and things we care about.
There are some blokes who serve on the committee at the shed as well. I haven’t seen many of them using the machines but one bloke has connections with all sorts of people and he regularly tells us we have won another grant from this organisation or another. Another bloke takes seriously the finances of the group and regularly reports on the details of all our costs and spending. Another one sends out letter and meeting minutes and all that stuff. Curiously, I think for the mens shed to operate well, we all need each other!
I’ve never asked the blokes why they do what they do but I can tell you that in their giving to the organisation they actually get a gift. They get a buzz out of helping others – some may get to feel important as a result of their job. Volunteering and helping others can reduce stress, combat depression, keep you mentally stimulated, and provide a sense of purpose. It’s true that the more you volunteer, the more benefits you’ll experience.
Research tells us, giving your time to others, even in simple ways can improve your health and happiness. But the most obvious benefits of volunteering is of course, the impact on the community or group. It allows you to make it a better place or a better group or organisation. I think many organisations that do great work in the community are staffed mainly by volunteers.
As a volunteer you can also make new friends, expand your network of contacts, and boost your social skills. In addition, it strengthens your ties to the community and broadens your support network for when you are in trouble. It also allows you to meet people with common interests, or living in your neighbourhood and can connect you to fun and fulfilling activities.
While some people are naturally outgoing, others are not and have a harder time meeting new people. Volunteering gives everyone the opportunity to practice and develop your social skills. And since you will be meeting regularly with the same group of people, you will increase your understanding of their common interests.
Research tells us social contact when helping and working with others can have a profound effect on your overall psychological well-being. They found benefits such as stress relief and improved mood whether working with people or animals. It can also help if you are prone to falling into depression. By measuring hormones and brain activity, researchers have also discovered that helping others can deliver an increase in pleasure. It seems like we are hard-wired to help others. The more we give, the happier we feel.
When you are doing good for others and the community, you can feel a sense of accomplishment. That feeling in retirement is often missing since you don’t do what you used to any more. Your role as a volunteer can give you back a sense of pride and identity. And the better you feel about yourself, the more likely you are to have a positive view of your life
When you retired, or lost a spouse, no one told you that the sense of meaning and purpose can evaporate. Whatever your age or life situation, volunteering can help take your mind off your own worries, keep you mentally stimulated, and add more zest to your life. It can give you back the sense of meaning and purpose you once had.
Studies have found that those who volunteer have a lower mortality rate than those who do not. Volunteers tend to walk more, get exercise doing everyday tasks, and maybe even as a result have lower blood pressure.
So maybe the question is, how can you make a difference in your church/ group/ organisation? Some people focus just on what they get out of a group. But the best focus is what can you contribute to this group. It may make all the difference in the world.