Who Said Helping Others Was A Waste of Time?

When Lamont’s house flooded, he was devastated. He didn’t have flood insurance and certainly couldn’t afford a contractor to fix things up, so he was working on it very slowly in the evenings and on weekends.

A man saw him outside working and stopped to ask if he could help. Lamont was nervous, considering his luck lately. He didn’t know this man. What if he was trying to rob him?

The man explained that the people in his office were working to help fix up the town after the flood. So many people were in the same situation, and the man’s company just wanted to help the community.

He and Lamont made arrangements to get a crew together the following weekend to help out. Still a little reluctant, Lamont figured he had nothing to lose.

The next weekend, a crew of ten smiling people showed up. They worked their bums off all day in the sweltering August heat. Lamont couldn’t believe that they were doing all of this without being paid and with smiles on their faces!

There was a catch, however as Lamont had to return the favor and go to a neighbor’s house next Saturday to help.

The Chat

Lamont picked up a couple of pizzas and some volunteers stuck around for a chat. They talked for hours about everything — their families, their health, and life in general.

The volunteers were much more talkative than Lamont was used to, but possibly the friendliest group of people he had ever met. The research suggests that volunteers are more likely to be extroverted and optimistic than non-volunteers. They also foster a deeper sense of community.

He also noticed that many of the volunteers seemed to be much more in control of their lives than a lot of people he knew. They had good jobs, stable home lives, and were just generally happy. A paper published in the Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly found that people who volunteer are less neurotic and practice more self-control and Lamont now believed it.

When they left, Lamont couldn’t wait to meet with them next week, even if it meant working on someone else’s house for free.

The Start of Something Good

Work at the neighbor’s house went well. It went so well that Lamont helped to fix up his entire neighborhood. Lamont was feeling so much better about himself. He was lonely less, he felt like he finally had a reason to be here. As a matter of fact, he was happier than he’d been in years. He looked for opportunities to help everyone he could. The research was pretty clear in that people experience special benefits (positive emotions) from volunteering and Lamont was proof.

As the volunteering efforts continued, the entire town started to have a different feel. Despite the huge flood, people were rebuilding and standing together. People who volunteer frequently not only benefit but the benefits also extend to (others) the community’s sense of well-being too.

Now what? If you are unsure how to get started then this might help:

  • Call the local Salvation Army or the Red Cross. They’re always looking for help, but if they’re not, they can direct you to local organizations that are. Think about who you’d like to help the most. Is it elderly people? Children? Churches? Find your passion and run with it.
  • Go out on your own. You don’t necessarily have to volunteer for an organization. Finding one neighbor that needs their lawn mowed or another that could use a ride to a doctor’s appointment will give you the same benefits as working on bigger projects within a structured team.
  • Organize a company-wide or neighborhood volunteering day. Choose a day for everyone in the company to help out in the neighborhood or get a few neighbors together to do some good for others. The benefits are two-fold: company morale will soar and a town will get the help it needs.

This is your weekend. Make it great. For someone else.

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