Volunteering - a way in which we can see each other
First and foremost, I want to thank this amazing community for welcoming me and showing me the best hospitality. During the holiday, people introduced themselves and it is something I am surely not taking for granted, so thank you. I am glad to be a part of the Jewish community of Michiana.
Volunteering is a selfless act that involves offering one’s time, skills, and resources to benefit others and contribute to the betterment of society. But why do people decide to volunteer?
Why do people sacrifice from their own important and precious time for someone else, most of the time strangers? And on some occasions the person that you are volunteering for will never know that you have ever volunteered for them.
Volunteering makes you grow as a person, it helps you build confidence, helps you with your leadership skills, makes you take responsibility that you may never have had before, it makes you think outside the box. So “what I get from it” is clear.
The variety of people that you will meet during your time volunteering will probably be different from the people you are familiar with. You will encounter people from different and diverse backgrounds, including the people you are volunteering for or the people you are volunteering with.
This experience shows you a different perspective of how the world works in another person’s eyes. It also makes you cherish the big and important stuff that until now you took for granted. Volunteering is also beneficial health wise. Don’t believe me?
A BMC HEALTH study from 2013 found that volunteering related to lower symptoms of depression and overall wellbeing of an individual. And a study by CARNEGIE MELLON found that 200 volunteering hours a year were connected to lower blood pressure among the people who got tested.
In Israel, there is a growing movement of teenagers, after high school and before the army, who decide to take a year for something bigger than themselves. They take a gap year and there are so many options, from volunteering and representing Israel outside of Israel, to living together and building a community in Israel. These small communities of teens help the community they are living in by volunteering with kids, elderly people or people with disabilities. This movement is getting stronger and bigger by the year, and it is important to keep it that way.
Also, in Israel, students between 10th and 12th grade have to complete volunteer hours for the community. This program is called “personal commitment.” The name is based on the understanding that we as a community need to respect the individual, but in return we need to understand that we are part of a community as well, part of something bigger than ourselves. The program is mandatory for all the students, and without it, they can’t get their high school diploma.
Students can volunteer in a variety of places for engaging and taking an active part in the community. Some of the options the students have include youth/ leadership programming, helping elderly people, working with people on the autistic spectrum, distribution of food to the needy and many more options. You can find your best fit.
And of course, in Israel we have a day called Good Deeds Day, which we mark on March 19. This is supposed to be the peak in the year for volunteering. Some employers even go with their workers to volunteer and unite outside the office or workplace.
At the end of the day what I believe is that, if done correctly, volunteering can help you grow as a person, and the contribution to individuals is huge. But volunteering is not about that. It is the act of stepping back to see a bigger and brighter picture; to make the world a better place, worthy of existence. And I believe that we owe this to the world and to one another.
I hope we as a Jewish community can grow stronger together through our collective actions; of seeing the other through our good deeds. What we do as volunteers does not have to be some big, revolutionary act. It can be as simple as putting a smile on someone’s face, and for some that may make all the difference in the world. May we be kinder and more thoughtful to each other in 5784.
Jewish Federation of St. Joseph Valley
Phone: (574) 233-1164