The Hidden Benefits of Helping
(Adapted from Helping You is Helping Me by Virgil Gulker (World Vision, Inc., 1993), pp. 29-38. Used with permission.)
- Volunteers get a kick out of helping others. There is just something about helping others that literally makes people feel good. In a study published in Psychology Today, the main sensations reported while volunteering were: “high”, “stronger, more energetic”, “calmer, less depressed,” and a “greater sense of self worth.” Volunteers are often excited about helping others and sending the message that people care.
- Volunteers gain a sense of impact or significance not always available through career or other responsibilities. While family and work responsibilities provide a deep satisfaction, there is often something missing in our experience of life. Volunteering just a few hours a week to help others can make a real difference and provide a much needed sense of accomplishment. Volunteers can find fulfillment in an opportunity to share high level skills or more often, just being there for someone.
- Volunteering Enhances Employability. Volunteering provides the side benefit of a valuable work experience. It is a real opportunity to provide invaluable help while broadening your network of potential references and employers.
- Volunteering helps you to discover what color your parachute is. “Discovering the color of your parachute” is the process of exploring your vocational strengths and interests. For those entering the workforce or exploring a career change, volunteering is an excellent opportunity to field-test your interests and discover new abilities.
- Volunteering helps turn negative life experiences into strengths. When you consider how you may be able to help others, don’t simply think about what you may be good at, think about what you have been through. People in tough circumstances often need to talk to others who will listen with real understanding and speak to their concerns with conviction and authority. Your failures and negative experiences may hold the key to your effectiveness in helping others.
- Volunteering can provide a break from preoccupation with your own problems. Working with the less fortunate allows you to change your whole frame of reference and begin to focus on what you have rather than what you lack. Volunteering often allows you to move beyond your own problems and sense of dissatisfaction to focus on the needs of others.
- Volunteering provides an advanced degree in the school of life. Volunteers often tell of invaluable lessons learned from those they are helping. Sharing in the sufferings, failures and triumphs of others who are in need can provide you with a more profound and diverse perspective on life.