When people like to workout, they are always talking about that “runner’s high” and how good they feel when they finish up. I’m like that with volunteering. There are a lot of kids around here but who don’t really have much in the way of role models. Their parents are busy at work trying to keep a roof over their heads, and it’s tough for them to stay away from temptation all the time. They’re good kids but they don’t know how to become good adults.
That’s why it is so important for someone like me to step up and be around for them. Even if I’m just playing basketball with a couple of neighborhood kids for a few hours, it can mean a lot to them to have someone spend time with them. To be honest, it means a lot to me too! I get to be outside and play sports—no worries about trying to squeeze in a workout at an overcrowded gym. The kids and I sometimes do a community service project. One weekend, we got to assemble some playground equipment for the elementary school around the corner. Every time I walk past there and see the kids going down the slide, I think, “I helped make that possible.” I don’t know of anything else that has such a big impact, and it doesn’t cost me anything but some of my free time.
I know the background that some of these kids come from and it is hard not be inspired by them. They are often struggling and starved for attention. I’ve known kids who haven’t had money for food, had gotten into high school without really knowing how to read, kids with parents who have problems with substance abuse, and kids who just seem like they have to work harder for things that come to others naturally. They handle all of this with grace and a smile. And you realize that it’s partially because they don’t know life any other way, but it’s also because they’re just good kids who need what everyone needs: to believe that they matter, that someone cares.
It’s also a cool feeling to watch them grow up. I don’t have kids of my own (yet) but I get to see a little of what that’s like. It’s nice to see that you can make a lasting impact with something so simple as an encouraging word, or a couple hours of your time.
The next time you’re faced with an empty weekend and are wondering what to do, definitely consider volunteering.It will never feel like time that is being wasted, for you and for those whose lives you will be impacting simply with your presence.