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The unseen volunteer

August 16, 2017   By Elizabeth Kress in Community

Did you ever make the statement, “I just want to make the world a better place?”

An aspiring young graduate of high school or college might state an admirable goal like this. The dream can get lost over the years, as we work to support a family, or advance in our jobs or strive to be recognized for our talents.

Here is a trick to fulfill that youthful goal in a quiet, low-cost way that I guarantee will bring you joy and enthusiasm. It is an easily accomplished subset of volunteering. It is my secret way to boost my mood, and takes very little effort.

Santee Cooper encourages volunteering in the community and this year has identified it as a goal for all employees. As a state-owned corporation with a mission statement “…to be the state’s leading resource for improving the quality of life for the people of South Carolina,” encouraging employees to volunteer makes good sense.

A lot of people think volunteering means hard work with a school or non-profit organization that needs help. It doesn’t have to mean hard work, though. All of us should contribute to our community in this way. We need to recognize our blessings and pay them forward to others who are not as gifted with the talents, support or benefits we have. Anyone can pay back a gift, but it takes a special person to pay it forward. Here’s the trick to an easier way to volunteer, with a personal example to explain how it works:

I exercise at the local YMCA, and go through that front door two or three times every week. As I’d walk in, I would look at the sad flower beds at the entrance and cringe. It made me upset and even angry to look at them. Complaining wasn’t helpful, and only made me and the front desk staff both feel bad.

After a few years, the solution came to me that I could fix that myself. Just because I pay a membership fee doesn’t mean the Y should devote funds to my personal peeve. I asked for permission, and mostly transplanted things or looked for bargain plants. Now, I’m excited to see the flowers and feel accomplishment about improving my corner of the world.

Instead of flowers in my yard that few people can see, these flowers are enjoyed by many people who pass by. That was the beginning of having a sense of ownership in that facility, which does a lot to provide sports for youth and improve the health of many adults in the community. 

You, too, can change your corner of the world. Tired of that trash along the road where you live? Take a bag and pick it up every so often. You’ll feel better. Is there something that irks you at your church or in your neighborhood or at your kid’s school? Go ahead and fix it. You might need to ask permission first. A lot of repairs or improvements take less than five minutes and less than $5. Within a short while, you’ll find that you are enjoying the places you go, and hear comments like “Wow, someone finally did something about that!” You’ll be hooked.

Try this out on something that’s bugging you or when you see a need in your community, and let me know how it works for you.