One of the ultimate existential concerns is finding meaning in life. And while I have no intention into going deep into philosophy today, what I want to write about is my experiences with volunteering, and how that brings meaning to my life. Sometimes when we are sick or in pain, or depressed, or lost, or even just busy, we tend to forget that there are things we can do to give our lives meaning. They aren’t necessarily complicated things, but in this case, they are things that can positively impact others’ lives as well as our own. I volunteer with two organizations: a children’s hospital, and a crisis text line for kids/teens.
At the children’s hospital, I volunteer for three hours a week. It can be a lot to fit into a busy schedule, but it’s ultimately rewarding. A question I get asked a lot is, what do I do there? Quite simply, I play with kids and cuddle babies. It’s quite uncomplicated. And yes, it can be sad, but mostly it is happy because kids are kids and just want someone to hang out with. Giving back and putting smiles on kids’ and parents’ faces not only makes me feel good, because I’ve contributed to someone else’s well-being, but it can serve as a mental break for me from the stresses of everyday life (part-time graduate degree – really its like 2/3 time, and full-time work is a lot).
At the crisis text line, I volunteer from 2-4 hours a week. This is a strange mix of stressful, yet rewarding and almost fun work. I know fun may seem like a strange word but I really enjoy volunteering as a crisis responder. The range of issues can be from low-crisis, relationship or coming out issues, to more extreme suicidal ones. The service has supervisors for us to turn to when needed, which can ease some of the pressure. Every time I volunteer, I get the sense that I’ve chosen the right career path for myself.
Just a ute picture for you to enjoy!
I’ve given myself some meaning in life. And not to say there aren’t other things that contribute to meaning, but I’ve found that in days when I feel anxious or depressed or in pain, I can challenge those negative automatic thoughts that zip across my mind by remembering meaning I’ve generated through volunteering. If you don’t volunteer, it’s something I strongly suggest you look into, as you will likely find it more rewarding than you can imagine.