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Tips: Volunteering
Dr. Dale V. Atkins, November 2011

Everyone everywhere can use a helping hand. Volunteering to help others, especially when you are older (a time of life when many people focus on what they either no longer have or can no longer do), can be an enriching experience that will give you an immeasurable sense of self-worth AND inject good will and inspiration in our world.

Choose your volunteer activities wisely. Here are some tips to consider:

Do What You Like To Do. - Do something or be in a setting that suits you and your personality. If you like to be around babies, there are plenty who need affectionate holding and cuddling. If animals are your thing, train to take shelter dogs for walks. If you have musical talents, play an instrument at the assisted living facility. If you are good at math (or science, or language, or anything) tutor a child at a club or youth organization.

Don't Look for Anything in Return. - When you are older - and hopefully wiser and more mature - you understand that the returns are often not what you thought they would be. Be open to that experience.

It's a Real Job. - Think of your volunteer job as "your job." Focus time and energy into your work and realize that you're helping other people in a profound way. Realize that you are spending time making a difference. What better way to "spend time?"

Don't Get in Over Your Head. -Get to know the routine of the job and the environment. Find a schedule that works for you - when you are at your most energetic and alert. You can always do more; be careful about promising too much and then needing to cut back your commitment. The people you volunteer with will look forward to seeing you as you will look forward to seeing them, and solid relationships can develop from these connections. So do yourself and them a favor by getting off to a good start and being realistic and reasonable about what you can offer. If you don't you may begin to think of your volunteer "job" as a source of stress and that won't be good for anyone.

What the world needs now is you. Share your gifts.

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