"Take Care of People–People before Paper, People before Profits, People before Self and People before Projects."
- Carol S. Ritter
While walking down the main drag of my college town, I’m frequently approached by homeless people asking for change. My response has always been the same: a smile and a terse, “Sorry, I don’t have any.”
Sometimes this is true, and sometimes it isn’t. But the fact is, I worry about my money going to support drug or alcohol addictions. I wish the panhandlers would make their way to one of our city’s many shelters. And as a college student, I’m not exactly swimming in dough over here.
But I still feel a major pang of guilt every time I dip into Starbucks for a pumpkin spice latte and ignore the hungry man on the street corner. That’s why this year I decided to carve out a new priority into my life: volunteering.
We frequently take for granted the simple blessings of our every day lives. We may worry about spending that extra dollar on organic apples instead of realizing how lucky we are to afford healthy groceries. We may desire bigger and better homes rather than being thankful for the roof over our heads. If we really start to pay attention to our daily routines—a shower, a cup of coffee, dinner with a friend—we'll realize just how much we have that others yearn for.
As human beings, we have a basic moral duty to help others around us. The vast majority of us are able to squeeze in at least an hour per week to focus on someone outside of ourselves. Think of how much time you spend browsing Pinterest or catching up on the latest season of Dance Moms. If your income allows you to make weekly donations to a charity, that’s great; but if it doesn’t, actively taking part in a volunteer activity is extremely fulfilling.
The first hurdle for volunteering is often the research to discover the best opportunity for you. So here are three resources to help you get started as soon as this weekend!
All for Good is the largest database of volunteer opportunities online and includes virtual, micro, and self-directed volunteer opportunities for those who are short on time or prefer to work alone.
HandsOn Network is a network of 250 volunteer action centers that extend to 16 different countries. The network focuses on solving local community challenges and developing leaders. HandsOn also works with companies and corporations that are interested in volunteering as a group.
Volunteer Match is a national charity database that allows users to type in personal interests and be matched with organizations that fit their talents. They also have twitter competitions and photo blogs where you can learn how volunteering has impacted others.
The holiday season is quickly approaching. Make it a goal to offer your time to those less fortunate at least once each week. It's a wonderful way to spend time with family and friends. Not only will you make a difference in the daily lives of your fellow men and women, but your soul will stretch and grow in ways you never knew it could.
Photo via flickr user Stephan Geyer
Claire studies journalism, public relations and politics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her goals in life include baking the perfect cupcake and helping women achieve their full potential in their daily lives. You can follow her on twitter