Stepping Up as a Volunteer

tt54.jpgI confess that this week I was slightly disappointed in my fellow New Jerseyans. If you read my blog, I hope you have learned how much I love this state, even if I feel the need to occasionally remind my fellow citizens that we need to do just a bit more to create that “more perfect society” we hope to achieve.

Maybe it’s the Easter season, but this is a time when we hear from the pulpits a version of the need to share our time, talent and treasure. This blog is about time, but not the one on the dial of your wristwatch (if you still wear one).

Rather it is the giving of your time and taking action to help those less fortunate than you are. It’s really that simple, just lend a hand to someone who needs help more than you. It has many names, but I think volunteerism fits the idea perfectly.

As I thought about volunteerism, I came across the website of the Corporation for National and Community Service (www.volunteeringinamerica.gov/rankings.cfm), a federal agency, that between 2011 and 2013 New Jersey ranked only 45 in the country on their volunteerism scale. C’mon New Jersey. I know we’re better than that. And I know it because I see examples of it every day.

I hope this blog serves as a stimulus for those who generally don’t volunteer, to consider the idea. As I wrote this, I confronted the obvious question: Why don’t more people volunteer? I mentioned the theme of this blog to a friend, who explained it this way:

“People want to help, but they’re afraid of being trapped into a duty that they might want to quit at some future time. Rather than look like a bad person, they say no to the volunteer effort or don’t bother taking that first step. The answer is to set a timetable for yourself. And then tell the person or organization that you are committing your efforts for that period. When the deadline arrives, you can gracefully exit, having fulfilled your commitment. Who knows? You might even decide to renew or volunteer in another area.”

This is precisely what my friend did, and now he has a modest commitment to volunteerism that he has followed for several years. I thought he had an understanding of the issue, but I would add something else. Sometimes we see a news broadcast about some incredible donation of time and effort (and money, too), and it seems so overwhelming if we try to compare, our efforts seem puny.

Friends, there are no small efforts. You might do no more than spend a few minutes chatting with an elderly neighbor who is obviously lonely rather than giving the usual hand wave. If you read a book to someone who can’t see or take people in your car to visit a doctor, all these matter, and these acts matter greatly. There is no need to compare. There are as many volunteer opportunities, both formal and informal, as there are interests and occupations. Just choose one that fits your style, schedule and personality. I truly believe that one of the strongest bonds of unity, as a state and nation, is our common bond to help each other.

As Albert Schweitzer, the great Nobel Prize winning humanitarian and doctor, noted: “The interior joy we feel when we have done a good deed is the nourishment the soul requires.”

I suspect that you can make your soul feel a bit better by stepping forward as a volunteer. That's my take. What's yours?


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  • commented 2015-04-02 21:25:26 -0400
    I couldn’t agree more with Assemblyman Singleton’s thoughts on volunteerism. Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) programs throughout New Jersey provide a wonderful opportunity for volunteers to make an enormous difference in the lives of abused and neglected children who have been removed from their homes and placed in out-of-home placements i.e. foster homes or residential facilities. The ultimate goal of our CASA volunteers is to help the children find permanent families and homes.

    We are looking for more CASA volunteers in Burlington County (www.casaofburlingtoncounty.org). Our CASA volunteers come from all walks of life; we train them to become child advocates for these vulnerable children.
    Volunteering about 5-15 hours a month for CASA can make a lasting difference in a child’s life. Although you may feel that it’s hard to find the time, the truth of the matter is, many of of our volunteers work full-time, have families of their own and are able to find a way to incorporate volunteering into their lives because they have made it a priority.

    Aside from becoming a volunteer advocate, there are other non-advocate ways to volunteer at CASA such as occasional office work and serving on event committees; as Assemblyman Singleton points out, if you are interested, we can find a meaningful opportunity that is a good fit for you.

    Winston Churchill once said “We make a living by what we do, but we make a life by what we give.” I can’t dream of a better gift than helping a child find a forever home and family. I hope during this month of celebrating both Volunteerism and Child Abuse Prevention and Awareness Month that we will see more New Jerseyans step up and help others in need.

    Lori Morris, Ph.D.
    Executive Director of CASA for Children of Mercer and Burlington Counties