Volunteering. It's the quintessential civic activity. Cleaning up a park, helping out in a soup kitchen, or being a child's mentor are all great ways to spend your time. But let's be real. If you think it's just about selfless altruism, it's not. There's a quote in an Avenue Q song that goes "when you help others, you can't help helping yourself" -- and truer words have never been spoken. Donating your time and energy to something worthwhile makes you feel good about yourself. And ultimately, it's that feeling that keeps you coming back. It's a virtuous cycle.
So what's in it for you?
• Perspective. Helping out in your community gets you out of your bubble and connected with the people around you.
• Self-discovery. By opening yourself up to new experiences, you might learn something about yourself in the process.
• Self-satisfaction. It's not a bad thing! Helping others boosts your self-esteem! Embrace those feelings, but make sure you're actually making a difference
Why else should you consider putting in some volunteer time? Well, the benefits to others aren't so bad either. These include helping often resource-strapped organizations fulfill their missions and improving the conditions of other people as well as your surroundings.
So how do you get started? Personally I find these websites particularly helpful.
They provide a quick and easy way to look for opportunities near you. You can also check with your workplace to see if they have employee volunteering programs. Here in LA, NBC Universal has set up a couple of activities for us during Earth Week, including a beach clean up in Santa Monica and tree planting in Griffith Park.
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