Vail Daily column: Volunteering for better health
Ryan Summerlin March 25, 2013
Many, many years ago, when I first started college, I had planned on getting a degree in hotel and restaurant management. I enjoy people and love food. A career in “serving” people ultimately took a whole different turn.
Helping people was something I was raised with. My mother was an inner-city elementary teacher. Often, she would bring home students to spend a day or a weekend with us when we would do fun family events. On one such occasion, I was told that one of her students was to come with me and my friends on a whale-watching trip. Much to my surprise, as the whale trip came to an end, my friends and I had found that this student had fit in and we all embraced him.
I do not recall how many years later it was when my family was home eating dinner and a knock came at the door. My father answered the door and walked in with someone not all of recognized; my mom did, though. It was her student that came on my birthday whale trip. He explained that he was now graduating high school and wanted to tell my mom that he was grateful for all she did for him. He also wanted to share with her that he was accepted to the University of Hawaii, where he was going to study marine biology. My birthday trip had really made a mark on him. My mom explained to me and my brothers that when you give of yourself to others, these type of results often can happen.
Since that time I have been a camp counselor, volunteered at numerous charities, and worked at many camps for the disabled. Always, a great sense of self-worth has come from my efforts. Little did I know at the time that volunteering would not only change my life’s job outlooks, but would also improve my health.
The Corporation for National and Community Service completed a study back in 2007 that pulled together the results of numerous other studies focusing on the health benefits to volunteering your time. Their project, “The Health Benefits of Volunteering: A Review of Recent Research,” “found a significant connection between volunteering and good health.”
Volunteering not only can make you happier and healthier, it offers several other benefits that can easily be overlooked. Volunteering can help you make new friends, improve your social skills, increase your self-esteem, offer career experience, teach you useful job skills, and bring you fun and fulfillment.
The key to successful volunteering is finding the right spot for you. Will you enjoy volunteering at this place and will you be capable of handling that responsibility?
Below are some questions to ask yourself as you begin your search for that “right fit”:
• Would you like to work with people or would you rather work in solitude?
• Are you better behind the scenes or do you prefer to take a more visible role?
• How much time are you willing to commit?
• How much responsibility are you willing to take on?
• What skills can you bring to a volunteer job?
• What causes are important to you?
It has occurred to me that part of our role on this planet is to help others, at whatever level we can and for as long as we can. Some of us do it for a living, some over time through their religious affiliations, while others may offer services to others through recreational projects. The possibilities are nearly limitless, yet our time on earth is not.
Some organizations that can always use help are: Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) and Eagle County Healthy Aging (contact Carly Rietmann at 970-328-8896), Eagle Valley Senior Life (Bev, 970-977-0188), Roundup River Ranch (Monica, 970-524-5718).
Don’t just sit around wondering about giving back to others – get up and do it. It feels great to help others while asking for nothing back in return. You will be rewarded.
Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels Home Care in Eagle County. For more information, go to www.visitingangels.com/comtns or call 970-328-5526.