zenhabits : breathe

Volunteering

Post written by Leo Babauta. Follow me on Twitter.

This past Christmas season, I wanted to get my kids into the real spirit of Christmas, so we looked for opportunities to volunteer or donate to good causes last month. We enjoyed it so much that we want to continue it year round. It’s a great feeling to do something good.

We’ve participated in the Angel Tree program, each of our children buying gifts for a child whose parents are in prison. That was a lot of fun. We also donated used toys in good condition that the kids don’t play with anymore to the Salvation Army thrift store. We’re looking into how to help serve food at the homeless soup kitchen here on Guam.

We also decided to volunteer for Salvation Army bell-ringing duties. The wife took three of the kids one day, and I was scheduled to take two the next day. However, I got stuck at work, couldn’t pick the kids up on time, and ended up doing it all by my lonesome.

After ringing the bell and whistling Christmas carols (I forgot the words) for two hours, here are my tips for anyone who does this:

1. Bring water and snacks. Two hours is a longer time than you think, and you definitely get thirsty and I got pretty hungry (it was around dinner time).

2. Don’t do it alone. Two hours of ringing a bell and whistling without a break is very tiring. If you have your kids, at least, there’s a little bit of a rest, and if you have another adult, you can kind of give each other breaks.

3. Bring a folding chair. This goes with No. 2 … if there are more than one of you, one person can take a break while the others are ringing the bells and singing.

4. Print out Christmas carol lyrics. I can’t remember all the words to any carols. Not even Jingle Bells. So print them out and sing them with your kids. It’s very festive.

5. Bring Santa hats. It’s fun and merry and full of Christmas spirit. Also have jingle bells. Get into the spirit of it!

6. Don’t pressure anyone. I always feel guilt if I walk by bell ringers without donating at least some change. But as a bell ringer, I saw it from a different perspective. I didn’t judge anyone, and tried not to stare at people as they walked by, so they wouldn’t think I was judging them. I think people still feel guilty anyways, but I never wanted anyone to feel like they were obligated to donate. I still got plenty of donations anyways. People were very generous, and whatever they could give, I was very appreicative — from $5 to 5 cents!

Whatever you do, volunteer for something. You will love it, and the organizations that you help will love you for it. Volunteers are a sorely needed commodity.



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