Volunteering: Not For the Faint of Heart

Volunteering isn’t for everybody.

Volunteering SHOULD be for everybody, but that would also involve living in a perfect world (we don’t and we never will).

A couple of years ago I took my first nonprofit class at Murray State. Much like many of the other students enrolled in that class with me, I took it as an elective – a placeholder in my undergraduate career, if you will.

One of the requirements for that class was completing a certain number of service hours with a local nonprofit. Much like many of the other students enrolled in that class with me, I took it as an assignment – yet another thing to do in college to get a grade.

I was so wrong.

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I showed up to Need Line, a food pantry, worn out from a full day of classes and a shift at the convenience store in the library, looking for nothing more than a task or two to complete before the nonprofit closed for the day.

Then I looked around.

I was surrounded by shelves and shelves of food. Cans of vegetables, bags of pasta, cartons of eggs galore. These shelves stocked with food some people in the community wouldn’t have access to without Need Line.

Then I saw the other two volunteers that were already there working on a project. They were taking pasta from bulk packages and putting it into smaller individual bags, and I could tell instantly they didn’t care at all about what they were doing or who they were doing it for. They looked annoyed and inconvenienced.

I decided right then and there I wouldn’t be one of them.

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I was going to tackle each project, whether it was stacking cans or filling egg cartons, with enthusiasm. I would leave my menial baggage at the door and focus on helping people dealing with life circumstances far beyond my comprehension.

I loved going to Need Line that semester. I looked forward to it. I started bringing a friend.

One of the last days I volunteered there, I was waiting for someone to sign off on my completed hours for the day and a mother and her child walked in.

They came that day because they were seeking the services Need Line has to offer. They had a problem, Need Line had the solution.

Watching this simple interaction was special. I saw the immediate relief wash over the mother right as she walked in.

It was exactly what I needed to see at that point in my volunteer service.

Volunteering isn’t for everybody, but it helps everybody involved in one way or another. It helped me immeasurably.

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