I smiled nervously at the Vietnamese family squeezed on the couch with me. All five of them were sitting in anticipation of “story time.” I was visiting with a stack of new books for the kids and they wanted me to read them all. Since the father was the only one who spoke fluent English, he acted as translator for his wife and children while I read.
This family was taking part in a new reading initiative called “Cradle to Kindergarten,” which provides them with books and tips on how to engage their children in reading-based activities. The goal is to help low-income children be better prepared for kindergarten. As an elementary teacher myself, I am 100 percent behind Cradle to Kindergarten and love being involved with it.
Today I want to put a call out to all of my single friends. Most of us have extra time to spend as we wish. Volunteerism is a great way to spend your free time- so why not give some of that time to invest in others?
Seven reasons why I volunteer (and I think you should, too!).
- Volunteering gets you out of the house and into another community
One of the greatest challenges singles face is loneliness. Coming home to a quiet house night after night can be very difficult. Single people often feel isolated and disconnected.
I believe that the answer to our struggle is not in binge-watching television night after night! Rather, the answer might be found in volunteering. When we volunteer we are actively stepping out of our small worlds and entering into the lives of other people.
2. Volunteering pushes you out of your comfort zone
Getting out of our comfort zones is so important. I’ve written about this before. Being single, it’s so, so, so easy to fall into a rut because there’s no one to break us out of it. Volunteering might be hard. It may feel awkward at first (some of my experiences certainly have- like reading ten books to a family that doesn’t speak English). But remember- being uncomfortable means more chances to grow!
3. Volunteering lets you meet new people
This is one of my favorite reasons. I love to meet new people. I also think it’s important for us to meet people that are different- politically, ethnically, and socio-economically. There is so much anger and division between people groups, often because we don’t know anyone who is “like that.” This makes it easy to misunderstand each other.
For instance, the refugee crisis became much more real to me when I started tutoring a woman from Bhutan. I didn’t even know Bhutan was a country before I met her, and I didn’t know anything about the life of a refugee. Even though I was there to teach her English, I learned so much more from her and her family. Getting to know them as people made me rethink my views.
4. Volunteering puts you in a position to serve others
Life is for service. I whole-heartedly believe that and I try hard to live this philosophy out. Especially as Christians, our lives are not our own. Jesus was our ultimate example of service and we are called to follow Him.
One of God’s purposes for the single life is to provide the world with people that have more time and availability to serve. There are myriad ways to do this: Plug-in at your church, visit at a nursing home, pack lunches at your local food bank, do some gardening for a neighbor, or offer to baby-sit for a friend.
5. Volunteering can be used by God
This is the best reason for Christians: it can open up new opportunities for witnessing and sharing Christ. When I moved to Ohio I started teaching English as a Second Language because I felt like I was living in such a small bubble. I was working in a Christian school and attending the church affiliated with that school. My family and friends were Christians.
But where were the ministry opportunities? So I decided to volunteer as a way to meet people that weren’t Christians. Through my sister’s church we got involved with an adult ESL program. I liked this program because it encouraged us to pray and share scripture with our students.
6. Volunteering lets you choose opportunities that fit you
One of the greatest aspects of volunteering is that it can be tailored to you. There is no one right answer- what works best for you? Are you an animal lover? Help out at the local shelter. Do you like learning? Volunteer as a tutor. Athletically inclined? I knew a guy that had a Saturday morning basketball ministry for a long time. Like being outside? Clean up the local park. Honestly, the sky is the limit!
You are unique and special and have something no one else does. Where can you use your passions and skill set?
7. Volunteering is fun
Volunteering really is fun. Right now I currently volunteer as a dog-walker at the Lake Humane Society and I love it. I’ve also packed food boxes, run 5K’s, participated in Trunk or Treat, passed out school backpacks, helped at food distribution centers, and served as a child ambassador for World Vision. All of these activities have been GREAT. You’ll love them, I promise.
Volunteering is an effective way to for singles to serve God, people, and their communities. It may be scary or feel strange at first, but once you find your niche you’ll never regret stepping out of your comfort zone and giving it a try. So give it some thought, find a spot that fits you, and jump in!
This week I’m thankful for the blessing of volunteer opportunities. They have expanded my life so much. Together, let’s celebrate every single blessing!