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By Shawn McAndrew

volunteerRecently, I had a conversation with someone whose family has experienced several losses in the past few months, as well as medical challenges. The amount of grief and actual care-taking reached a point of aching overwhelm. While in the midst of this, someone had asked her for a reference for a local volunteer agency. That was an ah-ha moment for her. She realized that if she could channel her energy toward helping others, she could participate in a “solution.” She went online that night and applied to volunteer for a program called Teens for Life.

“I realized I could get out of my own personal darkness by helping others!” she exclaimed.

Helping Others

My father was committed to being a volunteer. After serving as a corpsman in the Navy during World War II and Korea, he returned home and got involved in community service. He volunteered at his church, and then became certified in first aid and logged thousands of volunteer hours for the Red Cross. In his retirement years, he volunteered at the VA, helping other veterans find services they needed to make their lives better.

While going through his belongings after he died, I found many commendations, certificates, pins, and recognitions for my dad’s life-long acts of service. Sometimes I wonder if our lives have gotten so busy that we don’t have as much time for service any more.

Several years ago, I became a Master Gardener, which is a community-based volunteer organization. Recently I completed training to be a Certified Emergency Response Team member. Doing work in the community helps me refocus on things that aren’t about me. It keeps me from getting caught up in the Dark Side message that “my life isn’t perfect.”

Passion, Desire, Volunteer

Having little or no time should not prevent us from volunteering. Having the passion, a desire to give back, is what motivates most people to get involved. There is an abundance of volunteer opportunities available in the world. They can be as simple as making baked goods for the local school fundraiser or as adventurous as joining the Peace Corps. As my friend who is grieving loss and out-of-the-ordinary circumstances said, “It’s a way to get out of my head and back into my heart.”

As we go through life and pick up the pieces that unexpectedly fall around us, it may be beneficial to think about a service project that gets us out of our heads and into our hearts. There are so many worthy causes that need us, and which we need. Volunteering can be seen as another way to practice the tools of our Process. It can help to keep us on the Right Road, out of the shadow of the Dark Side.

There are thousands of places where you can share your spirit. Just googling “where to volunteer” brought up millions of possibilities. Start local, start small, or go big and go global. Wherever you put your time, it’s sure to give you and others a good feeling.

Please feel free to share your stories below – what volunteer experiences have you had, and what impact have they had on you and others?

  • Anne Crawford


    08/06/19 at 11:05 AM

    I love this post. When I attended the Process, I was also suffering from grief, care-giver fatigue, and felt hollow and empty inside. I realized that it was time to give back, because I WANTED to, not because I thought I should. I became a counsellor for The Trevor Project, a crisis intervention, suicide prevention lifeline for LGBQT youth, and find that my time on the lines with young callers has filled me with compassion, encouragement, and gratitude for myself, the Process, and the ability to help save young lives.

    • Shawn


      08/07/19 at 8:59 AM

      Thank you for sharing this, Anne. I really appreciate your story and the inspiration it will provide for others.

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