Santa Claus, in whatever imaginative incarnation a person believes him to be, is about one thing only giving. And the gift of volunteering would make Santa proud.
The holidays are exhilarating for some and full of anguish for others. But for those who embrace the holiday season, as well as those who wish it would never arrive, there is one common denominator that can unite everyone under the banner of holiday spirit volunteering.
Holiday Volunteers Become Everyday Volunteers
Basic human needs are amplified in the public eye during the holidays, making the holiday season the perfect time to explore the volunteer experience. For every person who can't wait to enjoy a Thanksgiving feast with family and friends or to dive into a mountain of presents under the Christmas tree, there is someone who will not have the opportunity to do either.
Volunteer organizations customarily enjoy a surge of participation during the holidays when people catch a celebratory fever and feel more generous. That's understandable and welcome, for people who volunteer once are more likely to volunteer again. Volunteers learn that doing for others can put their own problems into perspective and instill a life-changing sense of well-being.
Community Service Opportunities and Volunteer Jobs
When considering volunteering, many automatically think of serving meals
to the homeless. This narrow focus is fueled every year by news programs that
air footage of celebrities helping to serve a holiday dinner. But the opportunities
for community involvement are far greater than just serving meals.
A volunteer center like VolunteerMatch or Serve.org, makes finding volunteer
opportunities easy. Tailoring volunteer jobs to personal preference and specific
location is as simple as entering a zip code and a word or two describing the type
of volunteer work desired into a search box. Volunteers are needed for work with
people and animals, in libraries or in the wilderness, to attend the elderly and
interact with children, and even to bolster small businesses that serve a local
community. Some volunteer jobs are physical while others require no more than
sitting and watching. There is something for everyone.
Unusual ways to volunteer may include:
- becoming a companion caretaker to animals in shelters or watching over animals in veterinary hospital recovery rooms
- helping to create a community parade float or working as a parade monitor
- rowing a waterway to search for damaging debris or pond scum
- crocheting or knitting dolls for children
- helping refurbish musical instruments
- providing art gallery or museum tours
- collecting earth samples for geologists
- making audio recordings of books
- tending community gardens
- mentoring children in arts programs that schools can no longer afford
The opportunities are endless, and no matter a person's passion or capability, there is likely to be a matching volunteer job for which he or she would be a perfect fit. Age does not matter, nor does gender or lifestyle. The only requirement for becoming a volunteer is a willingness to help.
Turning Holiday Giving Into Forever Charitable Service
Every nation depends upon the selflessness of volunteers. The
disparity between the haves and the have-nots can be striking, but the discomfort
of that great divide can be lessened by the simple act of volunteering.
The holidays are an ideal time to experience volunteering for the first
time. Reaching out to others enhances the holiday experience for everyone involved,
and it is not a great leap from that holiday adventure to embracing volunteering
throughout the year. Most who do so find that the giving of time and energy to help
the planet, the less fortunate, or the neighborhood community, keeps the joyful
essence of the holidays alive no matter what the season may be.
Edwin Osgood Grover, a publisher and educator who later became America's first Professor of Books at Rollins College, and whose volunteer ethics and community activism changed lives, published the following personal quote in 1912:
"Santa Claus is anyone who loves another and seeks to make them happy; who gives himself by thought or word or deed in every gift that he bestows; who shares his joys with those who are sad; whose hand is never closed against the needy; whose arm is ever outstretched to aid the weak; whose sympathy is quick and genuine in time of trouble; who recognizes a comrade and brother in every man he meets upon life's common road; who lives his life throughout the entire year in the Christmas spirit."
Personal gratification and the giving inspiration of Santa Claus lives well and strong within the heart of every volunteer every day of the year.
Corporation for National & Community Service