Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay.
Most of us who volunteer have a sense of the reasons why we bother. There are countless, very practical reasons why we do. Although, at a deeper level, by volunteering, we are asserting some of the essential qualities of what it means to be a part of life on Earth, this pale blue dot in the universe.
Who is Volunteering?
Volunteer work is a popular pastime in Canada. A study in 2018 stated how 79% of Canadians aged 15 and over volunteered their time. And it wasn’t a minor contribution either. Together, we volunteered around 5 billion hours. That’s the same as about 2.5 million full-time year-round jobs.
Although, when we peer a little closer, the amount of formal volunteering differed according to age.1 Formal volunteering would be the kind of work done through, say, a religious organisation or a hospital.
The oldest generations may be less likely to volunteer. Still, when they did volunteer, they gave a considerable amount of time, more than all other age groups. In contrast, the youngest had the highest volunteer rate, but the lowest average number of hours actually volunteered. The Baby Boomers, Millennials and the Gen X’s were in between.
As for more informal volunteering, this may include community improvement outside a group or organisation or just helping outside the household. Again, the volunteer rate of the youngest two groups was the highest. Yet, the number of hours the youngest group gave, in particular, was the lowest. Meanwhile, the Millennials and Gen X’s again were in the middle.
The Baby Boomers and Millennials dedicated considerably more time to volunteering than all the other groups. Again, although the eldest volunteered at the lowest rate, the number of hours they gave was still almost double that of the youngest.
The difference between the oldest and the youngest raises many issues in the realm of conjecture. The eldest have more time on their hands, admittedly, than the youngest. Although, it may also be due to mindset and perspective. Time is still an issue. The eldest have had more time to recognise and experience the virtues of volunteering as opposed to the youngest, many of who have only been alive for 16 years. In any case, there are indeed merits to giving our time.
Why We Should Find the Time to Volunteer
One of the most common justifications people give for not volunteering is our lack of time. It’s true to a certain extent. Imagine a single father or mother, juggling two or sometimes three jobs. It would certainly be a challenge to find the time to volunteer.
Nevertheless, it’s worth it to make the time. In general, one of the reasons for volunteering would be as many would expect—it makes us feel good. Life satisfaction and improved health is one of the paramount benefits for volunteering—for the person we’re helping, as well as for those of us volunteering. When we step outside of ourselves and focus on the needs of others, it has a boomerang effect. We feel good because the person we’re helping feels good.
There are countless organisations who are happy to take whatever time we can offer. Even if it’s just half an hour. What we derive from helping others in that short time, trust me, will pay in dividends.
Various reasons exist that impede our ability to naturally focus on others. It may simply be the lack of time. Sometimes it’s a persistent insecurity that nags many of us, demanding all our attention. Although, by its nature, volunteering often enhances and draws out qualities such as our humility and empathy. It demands our attention be on the needs of another ahead of our own.
The minute we focus on others, we begin to trod the path to inner strength. There are countless times while volunteering when we will be placed face-to-face with some who is less fortunate. It’s then we learn essential principles such as kindness, empathy, gratitude and compassion.
Moreover, there’s a sharp clarity people are often granted when they’re subsisting at their lowest ebb. Perhaps what it means to be human is at its sharpest definition. As a result, these individuals, may be able to share words of aching purity, words that will live with us until the day we leave this earth. It can be just a simple, yet powerfully poignant “thank you.” This serves as an utter truth functioning as one of the beautiful links that unite us as living creatures. These moments will help shape, strengthen and build our character. This is something we can go on to use while helping others in the future.
Sometimes, we not only have an opportunity to strengthen the bonds with our friends. We also have an opportunity to create new ones. So, if a friend of ours is volunteering somewhere, we may simply elect to follow their lead. We shrug, why not give a little volunteering a try. What’s another added benefit is, by volunteering, there’s every chance we’ll meet new friends.
Maybe in another quarter of our lives, we’re struggling to find a job or move to another type of work. We may be seeking something a little more fulfilling or a job that simply pays a little more. Volunteering can benefit those looking for a job, as it’s possible. At a practical level, to pick up some valuable skills.
Some of us merely seek a range of business-relevant skills. These can improve our ability in the employment market. At the same time, by volunteering, it’s not only possible to lend a helping hand. We learn the vital principle of giving and helping with no expectation of any monetary return. And whether or not we even receive a nod of appreciation, it doesn’t matter because that’s not why we helped in the first place.
Yellow Hard Hat on Brown and Yellow Fireman’s Suit (Source: Pexels).
Other reasons we may volunteer is because we possess specific skills that would be of use in a charity or other organisation. We realise how our ability to practice medicine, teach, write, build houses or undertake any number of skills can be of supreme use to others. So, we step up. Again, what we are given in return are more principles to add to our treasure chest of values.
Volunteering is often tied to our communities. We’re inherently a central component to our communities. Any work we can contribute to improving our communities is worth the time. For many, it’s simply good enough to know we’ve made a positive contribution to our communities.
Again, making this contribution and being in service to others is a testament to how we, as humanity, are one. Volunteering pares away our differences and regardless of our religion, ideologies, colour, economic status, sex or more, if another is in need of help, we as volunteers will be there to respond.
“Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on Earth.”2
Fuller, Kristen 2018 “Volunteering: The Most Humbling Selfish Act of Kindness” Psychology Today https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/happiness-is-state-mind/201801/volunteering-the-most-humbling-selfish-act-kindness-0
Hahmann, Tara 2021 “Volunteering counts: Formal and informal contributions of Canadians in 2018” https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/en/pub/75-006-x/2021001/article/00002-eng.pdf?st=O4GeDP0i
Rominger, Alma 2020 “Why Volunteer? 7 Benefits of Volunteering that Will Inspire You to Take Action” https://growensemble.com/why-volunteer/
Statisitcs Canada 2022 “Study: Volunteering counts: Formal and informal contributions of Canadians in 2018” https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/daily-quotidien/210423/dq210423a-eng.htm
The Conference Board of Canada 2018 “The Value of Volunteering in Canada” https://volunteer.ca/vdemo/Campaigns_DOCS/Value%20of%20Volunteering%20in%20Canada%20Conf%20Board%20Final%20Report%20EN.pdf
Volunteer Canada 2018 “The Value of Volunteering in Canada” https://volunteer.ca/vdemo/Campaigns_DOCS/Value%20of%20Volunteering%20in%20Canada%20Conf%20Board%20Final%20Report%20EN.pdf
Yotopoulos, Amy 2022 “Three Reasons Why People Don’t Volunteer, And What Can Be Done About It” Stanford Center on Longevity https://longevity.stanford.edu/three-reasons-why-people-dont-volunteer-and-what-can-be-done-about-it/
1• iGen (also referred as Generation Z): Born between 1996 and 2012 (15 to 22 years of age at the time of the survey) – 11%. Canadians
younger than 15 are not included in the survey.
• Millennials: Born between 1981 and 1995 (23 to 37 years of age) – 25%
• Gen X: Born between 1966 and 1980 (38 to 52 years of age) – 23%
• Baby Boomers: Born between 1946 and 1965 (53 to 72 years of age) – 30%
• Matures: Born between 1918 and 1945 (73 to 100 years of age) – 10%
2This is from one of the articles I encountered and I thought it was very appropriate and worth sharing.