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10 Ways to Give of Yourself


10 Ways to Give of Yourself

I bet your parents, grandparents, and even great-grandparents taught you, as mine taught me, to care about others and to reach out to those in need. No matter how well off or needy we might be there are always others who can benefit from a gift of ourselves — our time and talents. When we reach out to others it makes a difference in their lives, but the true beneficiary is ourselves, for there truly is “greater joy in giving than in receiving.”

Are you recently retired? Could you volunteer a few hours a week to make someone else’s life easier? Are you out of a job? What better way to take your mind off your own troubles than to help someone else? If you have a family, consider teaching your children about the value of giving of themselves by serving a meal at a shelter or adopting a “grandparent” and raking leaves, weeding the garden, or shoveling snow. Even if you have little in the way of abilities and resources, perhaps you can read to someone or just share a little conversation with someone who is all alone.

Programs vary greatly by community so you will have to do your homework (we have provided links to national organizations where possible), but here are a few ideas for how you could make a difference in someone else’s life just by giving of yourself.

1. Tradesmen:

Are you a plumber, electrician, carpenter, painter, or other tradesmen? Could you volunteer a few hours to help the elderly people add such life-savers as grab bars in their bathroom or make minor but necessary repairs so they can continue to live in their home safely? Look for a community agency like projecthome (in the Madison, WI area) or RSVP that provides home care services to the elderly and disabled.

2. Coaches and Athletes:

Do you love swimming, basketball, running, skiing, or some other sport? Do you enjoy working out, Tai Chi or yoga? Many people with disabilities would love to participate in these activities as they are able. Could you coach Special Olympics or just be an “exercise buddy” to someone with a disability?

3. Artists and Musicians:

Do you play a musical instrument, dance, paint, draw, throw pottery, or express your creativity in some other way? Would you enjoy sharing your love for your art by helping children, the elderly, or people with disabilities be creative? Call Very Special Arts and ask about teaching a class; organize a concert or sing-along at a local nursing home; or teach a basic art or music class at a school or pre-school in a disadvantaged neighborhood.

4. Tutors:

Are you a wiz at math, science, English, or basic computer programs? You do not need to be an expert to share your knowledge with others. Try tutoring students after school, helping someone from another land learn English, teaching a young person to read, or older adults who how to use email to keep in touch with their grand children. Contact a school near you to see if these kinds of programs are offered and/or how you can become involved.

5. Drivers:

Do you have a valid driver’s license and a flexible schedule? Many seniors need rides to medical appointments or meals delivered. Start by contacting your local Meals on Wheels provider, RSVP,or check with your local nursing home or independent living center on how you might share your time with others.

6. Readers:

Do you love to read? If so, why not share that love with someone else. Call your local library and volunteer to deliver books to people who cannot leave their home or read to area residents. You might also check to see if there is an agency that provides reading and other services to the visually impaired in your area.

7. Hobbyists:

Do you enjoy movies, knitting, cards, chess, Scrabble, jazz? Many older adults would really enjoy having someone to share these activities with them. Why not contact an independent living center or Senior Housing community near you and see if you might “adopt a grandparent” or be part of a “friendly visitor” program in your area.

8. Senior Citizens:

If you are 55 or older, you can become a Foster Grandparent to children and young people with exceptional needs or a Senior Companion for adults in the community who have difficulty with simple tasks of daily living by joining the Senior Corps, or provide any number of volunteer activities through RSVP.

9. Families:

Can you walk a dog, rake leaves, or shovel snow for someone who cannot do it for themselves? Can you take someone shopping or to the grocery store or pick something up when you go? Could you do a load of laundry, clean the house, or provide some other home chore service, even now and then? Ask the older residents of your neighborhood if you might help them with one or more of these chores. Get the kids involved: Teach the whole family how good it feels to help others by serving meals at a shelter, working at a food pantry, or senior housing development, or providing seasonal or home chore assistance to people in your neighborhood.

10. People with Disabilities:

If you are unable to leave your home, you can still reach out to help others. If you have a specific condition or illness, become a peer counselor through your local support organization. Or, provide morning or evening phone calls to provide reassurance or remind someone to take their medication; play games (chess, Scrabble, cards) or tutor someone over the phone or Internet; or you can simply provide companionship by sharing like interests via phone, email, or writing to people in your area or around the world.

The ways that we can share our time and talents with others are endless. For a comprehensive list of agencies in your area providing services to those in need and looking for volunteers, contact your local United Way (call 211) or search www.211us.org.

For more insights by Shelley Peterman Schwarz, read Strategies for Living at  www.MakingLifeEasier.com and her blog, What I Learn about Living from my Chronic Illness.

©2011 Meeting Life’s Challenges, LLC         www.MakingLifeEasier.com
For reprint permission contact Shelley@MakingLifeEasier.com


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