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The following is a chapter from my newest book, Restore Joy to Your Life: 28 Suggestions for Renewing Your Mind, which will be released in January.
One of the best, most enduring ways to bring joy to your life is to serve other people. And, when you do it for free, it brings joy to your heart.
The need for volunteer workers is high in every community in the world. Here’s a partial list of places seeking short-term volunteer positions:
- Schools—Monitoring cafeterias and playgrounds, reading to children, tutoring students, serving as a classroom aide, and shelving books.
- Senior centers—Running errands for residents, assembling puzzles, delivering meals, preparing biographies for seniors to pass on to family, helping fill out tax forms, fixing things for seniors, teaching classes (how to use a cell phone is a popular topic), helping them with chores, or just engaging people in conversation.
- Animal shelters—Walking dogs, cuddling abandoned or sick pets, cleaning cages, or simply talking to the animals so they don’t feel neglected or abandoned.
- Homeless and abuse shelters—Preparing meals, playing games with clients, or hosting a party for kids celebrating birthdays that month
- Churches—Getting ready for services, rocking babies, preparing weekly bulletins or mailings, cleaning, performing yard work, teaching a class, leading a small group of people who desire to share life, or helping people overcome problems you’ve already faced.
- Federal, state, county and local parks—Picking up trash, performing lawn care or trail maintenance, cleaning campgrounds, conducting tours of historical sites, and staffing gates or welcome desks.
- Food pantries and clothing donation centers—Sorting donations, pricing items, or serving customers.
You don’t even need to be part of an organization to volunteer. Raking leaves, shoveling snow, or mowing grass for an elderly or disabled neighbor serves several purposes. First, it provides a needed service. Second, you’ll get to know someone from your neighborhood in the process.
Are there any single moms in your area? They might need help watching kids, making repairs, preparing a meal, or shuttling kids to activities. (When working with or around kids, take steps to protect yourself from accusations by not being alone with a child or being overly physical with him or her.)
Has someone been sick at home, lost a relative, lost a job, been recently divorced, or moved into the area? A hot meal, pizza, container of cookies—even flowers and a visit—can brighten their day and yours.
Help someone pack or unpack. Who couldn’t use an extra set of hands and a little friendly conversation when going through the hassle of moving?
Truly, there are countless ways to serve other people and make yourself feel good in the process.
I like to do secret work, like cleaning a bathroom at a busy gas station, clearing tables at an understaffed restaurant, and by picking up trash along the road or sidewalk.
Is there a tourist attraction in your area? Simply hang out and offer to take pictures of families so Mom or Dad can get in on the memories.
Here’s a few websites with creative opportunities for volunteering:
Here’s one for kids and adults:
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