As a typical and sometimes self-centered college student, I have lived most of my teen and young adult life believing the world centers around me and my needs. My world changed when I began volunteering. What started out as something I had to do in order to pass a class became something I am now passionate about and plan to continue for the remainder of my life. I believe that all high school and college students should be required to volunteer for at least one semester.
Volunteering encourages young people to think of others and become compassionate young adults. It is the perfect way to discover something you may be really good at as you develop a new skill. Volunteering brings together a diverse range of people from all walks of life. It helps you gain perspective on life as there is no better way to understand your blessings than to help people in need.
There is a volunteer opportunity for every kind of person. If you want to help the homeless, there are shelters, soup kitchens, and clothing closets. Do you want to work with children? Then try being a volunteer in a literacy program, take on a child in the Big Brother/Big Sister program, or work with children’s Special Olympics. Do you enjoy building things with your hands? Then perhaps you would want to help build a house through Habitat for Humanity. Do animals touch your heart? Then spend some time at a local animal shelter or help organize an Adopt-A-Pet day. Senior centers, Give 2 The Troops, Red Cross, and even political campaigns all need volunteers. There is simply something out there for everyone.
For me, I gained a newfound respect for the young men and women who are serving our country through my experience with Give 2 The Troops. While preparing care packages for our troops and viewing the photos of our soldiers serving overseas, I realized how much they endure for our freedom, and how much the little things that we may take for granted here can mean to them.
Another great experience that changed my perspective on life was working in the cardiac intensive care unit of our local hospital. Because I don’t have a medical background or special training, all I can offer patients is a smile and someone to talk with while they wait. And yet, this seems to be enough for so many of the families I encountered. Having watched many family members lose a loved one, I have come to realize how precious our lives are and how each day is truly a gift.
In short, I got out of my world and stepped into the world of others. And I don’t plan for these to be my only volunteer experiences. I will continue to work through different organizations in many areas. The short amount of time I give pales in comparison to what I have gained from these experiences. I think all students could gain a better understanding of the world around them if they are required to volunteer for just a semester. The world will be a better place for it, and I feel sure that many will decide, as I did, to continue with the effort!
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