Dalai-Lama-on-Helping-Others1
Just do it – image via

Happy 2016, everyone! We’re two months in, and it feels like this year is already moving right along.

I know I haven’t shared in a very long time, and I have been realizing more and more that I really miss this outlet to share and introspect about what is going on in my life (and the greater world).

Let me just say that life is wonderful! I moved out of a fairly horrible living situation, with an amazing living opportunity thrown into my lap completely unexpectedly. I’ve reconnected with good friends in the area, traveled to big cities for all of my holidays, and just had a wonderful time growing up and being content with who am I am and what I’ve become.

My job is still the dream I had hoped it would be – I am getting more and more responsibilities at work, so much so that I am generally over-worked and unsure how I am going to get to my bosses’ “priorities” when I am swamped with requests to assist stakeholders from all over. I’m now in the place where I spot issues and get to educate our own General Counsel on high-stakes issues. So it’s just an exciting thing to be growing in my career and feeling appreciated for my intellect and expertise.

And yet, I’ve noticed that my life here is lacking in some ways. I’ve grown complacent in volunteering and engaging with the world outside my happy little bubble.

Complacent Is As Complacent Gets

Have you ever noticed that when you’re part of something really good, like an environment where everyone is always happy and nice to each other… that nobody in that space really goes outside of it to see what the rest of the world is like? It’s as if they fear that by going outside of it they somehow risk contaminating their perfect little world?

While we all smile on the outside, do you ever start to feel like Andy when you stop looking to help others? - gif via
While we all smile on the outside, do you ever start to feel like Andy when you stop looking to help others? – gif via

As an independent adventuress, I have always taken great pride in looking beyond the easy life even when I am fortunate enough to be living in it, and remembering where I came from – a life where things aren’t handed to you, where you have to earn everything you own, and where things don’t always end up ok for everyone.

I’ve noticed that a lot of the people I engage with do not volunteer, do not go outside their comfort zone to try something difficult or scary that might serve others, and generally are content hanging out with the people they care about instead of looking out for those who have no-one.

It frightens me how easy it is to get complacent like that, to get lazy about finding a cause for the better good, and instead focus exclusively on ourselves and the people closest to us. Don’t get me wrong, loving yourself and others is wonderful. I just mean that there should be a place for opening our hearts to those in need, to those less fortunate than us, and to look outside of our own perfect little worlds.

There is suffering and pain out there, and I passionately believe that we can all be part of the solution.

And unfortunately, cocooning ourselves in our pleasant little lives is not doing anyone good. It doesn’t equip us for the difficult times that are certainly ahead, and it certainly does nothing to help others out there who are hurt or in need of some compassion.

Moving Forward

My resolution for the month of March is sign myself up for some good old-fashioned volunteering. I’m considering enlisting myself back in Habitat for Humanity, to work alongside the deserving families who so desperately want a home for themselves.

We all need to channel a little bit of Katniss' selflessness - gif via
We all need to channel a little bit of Katniss’ selflessness – gif via

Roads Explored

I thought about volunteering I had faithfully committed myself to in the past years of my life.

I did volunteer for Big Brother Big Sister on the East Coast, and loved the amazing impact I had on the little girl and family I connected with. It was worth every minute I spent! However, it is a bit too much of a commitment to spend every other Saturday (or Sunday) with someone – you can’t travel, you can’t meet up with your friends, and it certainly limits your dating time. So I’ve decided that this was a little bit too much.

I had previously lent my legal skills to a domestic violence project within a courthouse to help victims get their stories on paper in a clear and concise way that a Judge would be most sympathetic to hearing. That too was off the table now that my job became more and more demanding and I could not take a half day during the week to get to and from the courthouse.

Setting A Goal

And so, I decided to investigate other options. I know that my niche is helping those who feel like they are not heard or seen by others (like victims of domestic violence, or the impoverished), and of course I have always had a heart for working with children, so that could be another possibility.

What Are The Options?

February was all about laying out the groundwork, and so I asked many a friend about suggestions for volunteering opportunities I might enjoy.

One of my friends ended up being a goldmine of information. There were some domestic violence shelters in the area that allowed volunteers to work on weekends (to avoid having to drive to the financial district from work).

Then there were opportunities to read to children on Saturdays through Reading To Kids and even Reading Partners.

More still, there were opportunities to volunteer at children’s hospitals and homes for the elderly who are often lonely and devoid of cheerful interaction. These generally require some sort of medical exams/shots, and background checks.

I even found out through a new friendship that there are groups that go to Mexico to volunteer at orphanages to look children in the eye and remind them that they are special and unique, and worth loving.

Just Do It!

So I’ve decided that this month I am going to seriously research the options. I am going to think about how much time I can commit to an endeavor to help others, and sign up for something.

Why, you ask? Why is it so important to find a way to help others in more than just an accidental way?

First, as I mentioned before, there is so much unnecessary suffering in the world. Enough people who are sad, lonely, depressed, hurting, abused, misunderstood, ignored, shunned, judged… and yet we do nothing but hide in our little cocoon of convenience, ignoring them to remain afloat or try to achieve happiness.

And the other part is that it helps us feel more connected to the world, reminds us in our moments of difficulty or pain that there are much bigger problems than our own out there. It helps give us just a little bit of perspective. Remember, you are most likely the top one or two percept of the world in terms of your quality of life. Your problems are most likely so SO much smaller than the vast majority of the world.

And yet, our perspective is so often dramatic about our own circumstances. Revolving exclusively about the things we do not have, the relationships we are not in, how others have hurt us, etc…

So my challenge to you (and for myself!) is to do two things this month:

  1. List all of the things that you are grateful for, keeping in mind that people in the poorest parts of the world (and even our own societies, neighbors only miles away) have problems like not having a roof over their heads, food in their bellies, or a safe place to sleep without harassment or prejudice.
  2. Think about your passions – how can you use those things that you excel at to help others? Are you a technology guru? Why not reach out to a local middle school to tutor underprivileged kids on how to code or type? Do you love sports, why not join a homeless shelter and volunteer to play sports with them. Do you love reading? Why not join a reading for kids group in your area?

Don’t have time to commit to a serious volunteering project? Then look for someone who is sitting alone at the lunch table, or that grouchy cafeteria lady who never smiles, and strike up a conversation or complement them on something you noticed about them.

Just remember, for every person out there who is hurting or feeling alone, there is another one who can reach out and heal by simply seeing and acknowledging the hurting.

Just do it!

Get back to your passions - help someone in need! - gif via.
Get back to your passions – help someone in need! – gif via.

What are some of the ways that you like to volunteer or reach others who are hurting? Do you ever avoid looking for people who are hurting when you and those you love are doing well in life? Have you ever felt complacent about helping others, and what steps have you taken to regain control of your duty to lend a helping hand?

Please comment, share your thoughts and let me know what you think. Please help me keep this a positive forum, though. I am so excited for some debate, but let’s respect each other please. I reserve the right to monitor and delete inappropriate posts. Thanks in advance!

Featured image via.

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