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Preempting the New Year’s Resolution Madness
#4 Having a Helping Heart

By Kayla Lemar
Teen Scribe

    Volunteerism is officially defined as working without payment.  But just as patience is not just waiting, but waiting with a good attitude, so volunteerism is not just having helping hands, but having a helping heart that extends them.

    For a long time, volunteering was my duty.  In fact, one of the reasons I didn’t keep a job during High School because I preferred to work without payment.  It was self-edifying in a this-is-not-about-me-so-I-am-a-good-person sort of way.  The duty of serving others was born from my childhood as the eldest of four, in a family where both parents made careers out of care-taking (spiritual, physical, or otherwise).  Care-taking was a way of life for me, so much that I cared very little about myself.

    As I search for life-renovation this 2011, I am uncovering the roots in my own life of the difficulties adults have when they are older.  My difficulty with volunteering is not that I don’t volunteer, but that I make everyone else’s life my responsibility.  I make loving everyone else my responsibility, but think so little of learning to love myself.

    This, I imagine, is not the root in the lives of everyone reading this.  And so if you do not struggle with giving too much, but rather not wanting to give at all, then below are some of my own reasons for volunteering.

    Volunteering develops virtue, honor, and compassion.  You feel more for the needs of others, open yourself to their joys and their pains.  In serving you develop a love and mercy for life, others and your own. 

    Volunteering can be an expression of appreciation for a person or for a community that has supported you.

    Volunteering builds connectedness.  Connectedness is an understanding of how all parts of a whole cooperate and support one another.  Like the nitrogen or oxygen or water cycles in sixth grade Life Science, how each part flows into another, so it is with humanity, our Darke County community, our schools, and even our homes. Connectedness is my key strength, according to psychological and personality research I’ve done on myself, and is thus the furthermost reason I volunteer. 

    Volunteering might help you promote an idea or organization that is important to you.  My youngest sister, Jessica, has been a vegetarian since she was eight.  Unlike vegetarians concerned about high cholesterol, my sister doesn’t eat meat because she loves animals so much that it hurts her to see them on a plate.  Volunteering at the Animal Shelter or at Shawnee Prairie or even the Cincinnatti Zoo would be a way for her to express her love of animals and promote awareness about human practices that endanger her furry friends.

    On a practical note, my volunteer work at the Daily Advocate and now the Early Bird as a teen writer helped me develop a skill set.  I use some of that skill set at the YMCA to write press releases for the children’s programs I develop, and I use other parts of that skill set for my own enjoyment at home writing stories.  Volunteering is the perfect opportunity for a young person to explore interest areas and gain experience for a career or as a hobbyist. 

    There’s only one reason people give for volunteering that I disagree with.  Volunteering isn’t about building a college resume.  Yes, volunteering promotes you in the eyes of a school board or a scholarship board, and yes, it’s a good idea to have some volunteer work on your resume.  But volunteering, for me, is about blessing the heart.  The fear of being rejected by colleges and scholarship boards ruled my decision-making about community volunteerism.  My fear of loss of love ruled my decision for giving in my church and in my home. 

    Wisdom from the followers of Jesus: a joyful giver is delightful.  A resentful or fearful one… not so much.  Make volunteering about blessing your heart and the hearts of others.  As in all things, volunteer in balance.  Neither take the world on your shoulders, nor live without the blessing of connecting to the goodness around you.  Give joyfully out of the abundance of you heart.

    Here is a list of volunteer opportunities for youth like you, provided by Sherry Baker, HandsOn West Central Ohio Volunteer Corrdinator:

•     Darke County Parks District,  volunteer as a trail monitor
•     Oakley House, volunteer teaching and playing  the Wii with residents
•    Oakley House , volunteer as a nail technician (painting residents nails)
•    Big Brother Big Sisters, volunteer as a Big to a little person
•    Council on Rural Services, volunteer in one of our classrooms reading to children
•    SafeHaven, volunteer sharing computer knowledge to residents

     “Everyone should extend their hand to help another; we all have talents to be shared to make the world a better place.  The possibilities are endless,” Baker says.  Some other unique ideas of Baker’s include picking up trash around town and organizing your own food drive for drop-off at a local food pantry.  

    Volunteers of all ages can participate in HandsOn West Central Ohio’s large service days— Make a Difference Day in October and Martin Luther King Jr. Day in January.

    My favorite place to volunteer is with Darke County’s Youth for Christ programs.  Youth for Christ hosts Serve Darke County annually, on October 1st this year.  Other opportunities include task volunteering and (if you are an adult or young adult wanting to help with youth) ministry/leadership volunteering.  Check out for a list of specifics, and mail for more information.

    Visit for a search engine of other volunteer opportunities in your unique interest areas.  Don’t forget to use the creativity in your own heart.  Think freely when expressing your love for others.

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