Volunteering might be just the thing to help you remember who you are; this is the transformative power of volunteering.

I believe in the power of volunteering. I see it as an incredibly accessible and formative activity. It is not, however, the act of doing something on behalf of someone else without pay that’s transformative – It’s the context in which volunteering exists that matters.

The power of volunteering is found in the places that volunteering takes us: homeless shelters, the devastated neighborhoods of New Orleans, the local nursing home, your town’s summer fair. Transformation occurs in places that are far away from our safety, comfort and ownership. They are outside our known experience.

Cash vs. Volunteering

Since before my kids could walk, they came along with me to volunteer in these kinds of transformative places. For most of the last 15 years my two boys and two girls have helped (or gotten in the way of) handing out meals at community meals and mens shelters. This has been a way of life for us for a long time.

But now my second oldest is planning on traveling to the Ukraine. She is going there to work with children who have special needs. Previously, the Soviet Union denied these children’s very existence. Now, they have style=”color: black; “>limited access to state schooling, poor medical care, and minimal transportation. Tragically, they are often neglected and isolated by society.

style=”color: black; “>Some folks I talk to wonder if it isn’t a better use of funds to send over the cash that it takes to fly a bunch of Americans over to “help out” for a week. It’s a fair criticism. But cash isn’t really what volunteering is about. And it’s definitely not why trips and experiences like this are essential for all of us.

Remembering Our Humanity

Volunteering moves us to find ourselves. It takes us to places within ourselves that we would never have occasion to discover otherwise. Life is full of obligations and practicalities. We live with the constant threat of losing our humanity under the tyranny of our schedules.

This is Katie’s last year of High School. High School is a place that screams, “be prettier, be faster, be funnier, be more.” Katie’s a smart girl. She knows how the game is played and that the scores are fixed. But still, when the roar of the audience is screaming for a better performance, it’s easy to forget you’re not just an actor playing a part.

It’s easy to forget your humanity.

It’s easy to neglect the discovery of who you’re becoming.

I know many of you reading this are experiencing your own version of what I’m describing. But you’re not in High School. You’re at work. You’re trying to figure out how to be a dad or a mom. You’re looking after ailing parents. Life’s demanding more, and you’re wondering if you’ll ever be enough.

Going to unexpected places and giving your time might be just the thing to help you remember who you are. Serving others who need you to be just who you are is the transformative power of volunteering. We transition from a role and an obligation to a unique and essential piece of the human experience. We begin to realize a worth in ourselves that can only be discovered in seeing the worth of those around us.

For My Daughter

That’s what I want for Katie. She’s had numerous volunteering experiences, but this time it’s a bit different. This time she’ll go deeper into who she is and discover a value that we all need her to share with us.

If you can help me send her toward this life changing experience, I will be grateful and count you as members of my tribe who helped raise my children. For those for whom it’s just not possible, join us in taking (or continuing to take) these journeys to unexpected places to discover our true selves.

Click here for more info including how to give. There’s also a widget at the top of this blog called “For My Daughter.”

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