If September and October in Chicago typically please citizens with colors and warm weather, then in November, everything changes. The temperatures drop every day. Although you don’t hear Christmas music in shops and cafes or the sounds of the Salvation Army bells are not on every corner yet, one thing is clear — holidays are coming, and it seems that this excitement helps people deal better with this cold and dank weather.
I do not know why, but at this time of the year, I want to share and give more. Perhaps because it is not difficult to find homeless people in Chicago, whether it is downtown or not. Seeing them touches my heart, the thought of spending nights somewhere on the streets truly horrifies.
In an attempt to make some contribution to helping these people for several years in a row, my husband and I have been collecting boxes of clothes and shoes and taking them to local shelters and donation stations. Actually, I love this little tradition not only because we helping other people (this is the priority, of course!), but also because releasing shelves from unnecessary things renews the energy in the whole house. I love this feeling!
Over the past year, I have developed an interest in volunteering. In the beginning, the reasons were more than superficial — not so much I wanted to be a good person (to be honest, not very many people start volunteering to be called “a great guy/girl”, people have bigger motivation). For me, it was more about figuring out what is required to create my own non-profit organization. An idea of a charity project has been living with me for several years now and it seems that it will soon turn into something real. But I will not run ahead of the locomotive and talk about what is not there yet.
So, let’s talk volunteering. Here is the short list of advantages I have experienced first hand.
Volunteering opens doors to almost any organization.
Perhaps this is the most selfish reason. But volunteering really opens the doors to an organization. A local organic delivery company, an organization supporting cancer patients, a museum of modern art, a kitchen for the homeless… you name it. That was my list of places.
For me, volunteering was a great opportunity to get into the dream organization and see my own dream job. For a long time, I thought that the Chicago Museum of Modern Art was the best place to work, at least for me. I got there with enviable ease as a volunteer and was able to see their creative kitchen from the inside. There I talked to the curators of exhibitions, met with other volunteers and interns, who are much more seriously immersed in art. Much has become clearer to me. My conclusion — if you know what you want, you should never guess. You need to look for ways to check it out (hello, volunteering!). The action is much more productive than any reasoning.
Volunteering helps you feel grateful for what you have now
Sometimes I find myself forgetting about the value of my health. I take well-being as a given thing and remember the importance of taking a proper care of myself when something starts bothering me. Volunteering gives you the opportunity to see, to touch what you do not encounter every day. So, smiles of people who are struggling with serious diseases day after day, remind me that happiness and gratitude do not require external conditions, this can (and should) be our conscious choice. It is like teaching your brain to concentrate on yellow objects in the room instead of blue objects. Focus on being grateful instead of being irritated that something is wrong — a small effort that will soon become a habit. It might be challenging at first. And it’s okay if it does happen overnight. We are talking here about reprogramming our brain.
Volunteering is a great way to meet cool people
It works simply as a well-defined scheme! Always, well, just always, through volunteering, I meet kind, sympathetic and interesting people. Usually, these are people who have something to share with others. They seem to be magnetized to the opportunities to help others.
At one charity event, we were preparing dinner for people in difficult life situations, I met a young woman. She is a writer and currently working on her first novel. In her novel, she touches the topic of homelessness. To learn more details about that, she has decided to volunteer for a local organization. Who could imagine that we would cut peppers and potatoes together for a few hours preparing dinner for homeless people? And a few weeks ago we had dinner together with our families.
Volunteering expands horizons
New experiences and emotions are important to feel good and experience the fullness of life. The accumulation of eclectic observations is useful not only for writers who work in fiction but for all people, at least in my opinion. Broadening horizons and awareness of the world make us diversified. Perhaps there are many other ways to become versatile, but giving a little of your time to someone is one that fills you with light from the inside.
Volunteering helps you feel happier
A smile on someone’s face for whom you did something genuinely always makes us happier, even if you simply shared information or listened. It also becomes a great motivation to do it more. Probably, volunteering can be attributed to the exit from the comfort zone, but at the same time this exit is very comfortable). Sorry for the tautology. Receiving a charge of positive energy from helping others, from their sincere words of gratitude or just smiles is what causes a surge of strength and gives more meaning to every day.
Finding local volunteering opportunities is easier than it might seem. I like this website for its convenience.
Here are some Chicago based organizations which will be happy to open their doors for you.