When my sister and I were growing up, our mom strongly encouraged us to get involved in causes and communities that were meaningful to us. For my mom, helping others was important, but she also knew that the act of giving results in many clear benefits for the giver as well.
My mom’s views on giving crystallized from her experience as a young, new mother catapulted out of her comfort zone in every possible way. Both of my parents were born and raised in New York City, but shortly into their marriage, they found themselves leaving family, friends and familiar turf behind when they relocated to Kentucky for my dad’s job. This was the early 1970s, long before email and the Internet. Air travel and long-distance phone calls were prohibitively expensive. My dad had a few welcoming colleagues at the office, but my mom found herself feeling extremely isolated at home with her two very little girls.
As an outgoing and resourceful person, my mom reached out to the Jewish community and became actively involved. From there, she learned about Hadassah, an international organization devoted to building peace in the Middle East through world-class medical care and research. Her work with Hadassah helped my mom remember there was an entire world out there she could be involved in. She also established through Hadassah many of the friendships that lasted throughout the 25 years she lived in Kentucky and remain with her to this day. She also credits many of the women she met as being her role models in parenting, as well as having inspired her to continue her education.
Research seems to bear out my mom’s beneficial experience with volunteering. The Mayo Clinic cites three major health benefits of volunteering to those who volunteer:
- Improves physical and mental health.
- Provides a sense of purpose and teaches valuable skills.
- Nurtures new and existing relationships.
If you’ve been thinking about lending a hand to an organization that is meaningful in your life, there is no better time than now to get started. Feel free to start small, whether it’s dropping off your no-longer-needed, gently used items at Goodwill or committing an afternoon to a project sponsored by a community organization. Not sure where to start? Check out an organization like VolunteerMatch that matches people with causes in all corners of the US. Whatever you decide to give, you’re likely to find yourself feeling good about your contribution. And with any luck, you may even discover a network of lifelong friends, as my mom did all those years ago.