A volunteer is defined as, "someone who freely offers to do something. A person who freely offers to take part in an enterprise or undertake a task." Volunteering is something we all encourage our children to do, and often lead by example. We tell them that it is important to give back. That they have a voice to create change and should seek opportunities to give back that are connected to their likes and passions. I love it when this happens, when it is a clear match and you can see the positivity radiating off everyone involved. Then there is the other side of volunteerism, the one that is "required". Of course you WANT to volunteer, but everyone is busy: college applications, AP courses, sports teams, work, and everything in between. It can be really hard to make time with the demands on your life and expectations. When that happens, volunteering can become just a check of the box. That's reality. I mean let's be honest, volunteering is a REQUIREMENT FOR GRADUATION.
I get it, I hear ya, we only have a certain amount of time in a day. When it gets insanely busy, we even ask ourselves WHY ARE WE DOING THIS? Plus, depending on where or how you volunteer, you may not get a chance to feel your impact in a significant way. In my opinion, this is the missing piece in the definition of a volunteer, because you're not supposed to talk about it. We are supposed to give without expecting anything in return. Yes, this is true. But make no mistake about it, YOU WILL RECEIVE, and I promise it will have an even larger impact because you weren't expecting it, and it will become a part of you.
So, for those of you who need us to send up a flare to get your attention, I want to share these two stories that have me feeling THANKFUL for our volunteers who make what we do possible for our players, dancers and participants.
- First was an email from a participant in our dance program. She has Autism and asks repetitive questions. I don't think any of us get the opportunity to really get to know her as much as we would like, because she is sharp as a whip with all of the questions one after another that she is going to send your way. A few weeks ago, I opened my email to find this message from her and I wanted to shout from the rooftops with happiness. "Hi Gena. I really like Devenio Dance. I like it because I like doing my dance moves. It is hard for me but it feels good to be with friends and to learn how to move my body. Thank you for making it possible."
- Second was a message I received recently from someone who found us for a project, and volunteered her time with our soccer program. She has since graduated and moved across the country. She never studied anything related to disabilities, but her new position is with an organization promoting inclusion, resilience and ability. I couldn't think of a better message to wake up to than the one she sent me: "Thanks for inspiring me with Devenio and Fun Bunch. I wouldn't have been so passionate about this prospective position had I not worked with you and Devenio."
Volunteering really IS about freely offering to do something for others, but it is also about you. Because YOU will make wonderful things happen for others, YOU are having an impact on their life. And this SHOULD make YOU feel fantastic.
Thank you to all of Devenio's volunteers both this year and in past! It is with your time, energy and effort that we are able to continue to build this wonderfully, inspired community!