I was in eighth grade the first time I volunteered for Meals on Wheels (an organization that provides hot meals to families in need) with my Grandpa and Aunt Colleen, on Thanksgiving Day. Of course, I was not volunteering by choice, but rather I was volunteering for a Home Economics course requirement. At the time, I thought I was going to die. I mean, who wanted to spend Thanksgiving Day volunteering? I certainly didn’t, but at the time I was only 13 years of age, and the only thing I wanted to do was watch movies and enjoy my day off of school. However, almost 15 years later, I am just now realizing what a profound impact that volunteering on Thanksgiving Day had on my life, who I am as a person, and how good it makes me feel to give back to others.
As a 13 year old girl, I had no idea that so many people were struggling with hunger, but after volunteering on Thanksgiving day, my once blurry vision on the realities of life had become very clear. I will never forget how scared I was the first time my Grandpa pulled up to our first donation, and how scared I was to go up to their door, knock on it, and give these people who I did not know a massive bag of warm food. Can you believe that? I was scared? I was scared to knock on a door, when many of these families were probably terrified of not knowing when, or even where they their next meal would come from. Talk about putting life and its very true realities into perspective.
However, after delivering food to the second, third and fourth house, the feelings of fear began to reside. Instead, feelings of happiness began to arise in my belly and I could not stop smiling. When people would open their doors to receive their massive bag of warm food, they were so happy to see a smiling face, that many of them offered to let me into their homes. In fact, many of them asked if I was hungry and asked if I could join them for their holiday supper. I was amazed by the generosity of these people who had so little, but wanted to give so much back to others.
Naturally, my Grandpa insisted I decline, as we had many more meals to deliver. Politely, I did decline and thanked them for their willingness to share their meals with me, especially since many of them did not know when they would eat again. Over time, the delivering of food became second nature, and I could feel myself emotionally growing from a selfish child, who wanted to watch movies all day, into a person who appreciated all that life had to offer, like knowing where my next meal would be coming from.
After volunteering with my Grandpa and Aunt Colleen on that terribly cold Thanksgiving Day, the itch to help others is something that has become a true part of who I am, a part of my character. Ever since that day, I have spent so many hours of my life trying to make this world a better place. In high school, I volunteered with children who had disabilities through Youth Challenge. I have volunteered as a Rape Crisis Advocate for Townhall II, in Kent, ohio. I prepared and served food at local churches. I have donated and continue to donate blood whenever possible with the Red Cross and Life Share. I provided child care to homeless mothers while they looked for jobs through Family Promises. I have collected clothing from family members to donate to the City Mission.
Now, as an adult, I am a far cry away from the once selfish 13 year old girl who could have cared less about volunteering on holiday break. Spending the day volunteering with my Grandpa and Aunt Colleen has made me realize that giving back, sometimes is not for the people who are in need of food, or in need of clothing, or in need of support, sometimes volunteering is actually for those who know that this beautiful World is still in need of so much kindness. Sometimes, giving back to others is really meant to help the volunteers. I am confident that volunteering throughout my life has taught me to offer patience towards those who need a little more time, compassion towards those who are different than I, and empathy towards those who are enduring battles far greater than I will ever know. Many times we volunteer hoping to give back to others, but I can assure you that I have been given more than I ever thought possible by those who have allowed me to help them.
This holiday season I challenge all of you to give back too…
On December 10, 2015 a few family members and I will be volunteering for The Greater Cleveland Food Bank. We will be taking calls to accept monetary donations to help support local Cleveland families who may be struggling to have meals on a daily basis, if at all. Please take the time to call in and make a donation! However, if you cannot donate, please take of your own personal time to give to those who are in need.