Nicky Parry is a great example of what’s so fabulous about social media.
She is a fascinating, funny and supportive individual I never would have met if not for social media.
I’m thrilled that Nicky offered a guest post while I am in San Francisco cheering on my teammates in the 3-Day, 60-Mile Walk for breast cancer. (My Walk is in San Diego in November).
Nicky is writing about something close to my heart – volunteering. Please welcome Nicky with your comments and enjoy her inspiring post.
Can You Make a Difference?by Nicky Parry
As we once again approach September 11th, it’s natural to look upon this as a day of mourning. In fact, it’s difficult not to. September 11th, however, is also now a designated National Day of Service and Remembrance. A tribute to all those who were lost as a result of the 9/11 terror attacks, and the many thousands of people who responded immediately or subsequently rose in service.
On that note, although volunteering has generally been on the increase over the past 15 years, it experienced a more significant increase in the aftermath of September 11th, 2001, with many more people wanting to do something for the good of their community or country.
The Benefits of Volunteering
The effects of volunteering are wide-reaching, and are both intangible and tangible. Intangible benefits involve not only a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment, but also intense pride in one’s contribution to a chosen cause.
Although we typically choose to volunteer for altruistic reasons, over the past couple of decades, more and more evidence has pointed toward the fact that helping others also brings tangible benefits to personal health. Studies have shown these to include feelings of reduced social isolation and enhanced self esteem, as well as reduced blood pressure and enhanced immunity.
Reduced anxiety and depression, increased energy, less trouble sleeping, and improved weight control have also been cited as health benefits associated with volunteering. And as if these aren’t enough, studies have also revealed a reduced mortality rate in older adults who volunteer.
I myself have volunteered for a few years now, and to say I’ve enjoyed it is an understatement. I’m involved with the United Service Organization (USO), and work a regular shift at Boston’s Logan Airport USO Lounge. In addition, I’ve had the pleasure of being involved in other fun USO events.
I’ve put together care packages in an Air Force hangar, helped out at deployment ceremonies and Valentine’s Day events, and even contributed to their monthly newsletter. My involvement with other military-related organizations has also had me playing volunteer photographer at an Air National Guard air show, timing races at a Military Paralympics event, writing holiday cards and wrapping gifts, and adopting a deployed soldier.
When I was looking to become a volunteer, I literally did a Google search for “volunteer opportunities in New England”, and then sifted through the results. So you too can search in this way for opportunities in your local area.
There are, however, numerous organizations dedicated to volunteerism, with www.dosomething.org and www.VolunteerMatch.org representing just a couple. Looking to do something specific in honor of the 9/11 victims and responders?
Here you can pledge to do a good deed this year – how about baking some cookies for your local firefighters? Another simple way that you can contribute is by using the #IWill or #911day hashtags on Twitter.
Making a Difference
Volunteering has been the single, most rewarding thing I’ve ever done in my life. I can honestly say that my payback is much greater than what I give.
The soldier who I adopted? He’s currently my boyfriend of one year. Maybe there’s no true altruism after all?! Seriously though, volunteer opportunities exist in abundance to meet just about any person’s skills, schedule, and chosen cause.
Maybe you can write newsletters for your local historical society, or even join Cathy as she walks 60 miles in 3 days as part of the boldest breast cancer event in history. Whatever you choose, you have the ability to help change the lives of others, as well as your own.
If you’ve ever considered volunteering in any capacity, but not yet managed to get around to it, I can thoroughly recommend the experience. So as we approach this National Day of Service and Remembrance, make it a day to think about your community and country, and consider doing even something small for a cause that is dear to you.
How would you like to make a difference?
Dr Nicola Parry is a freelance medical writer and medical editor in Boston. Her website is www.bioscientificediting.com and her blog is http://bioscientificediting.wordpress.com/