Service: The Simple Joys of Volunteering

"Those who bring sunshine to the lives of others cannot keep it from themselves." 
-James Barrie

The last post, I focused on my experiences with my cat Killy, throughout our 10 years of volunteer work. I shared the wonderful gift Killy had to read people’s emotions, know what they needed at the time they needed it, and how to give and receive unconditional love. He was a master at “volunteering” without even trying. Now, it is my turn to describe my own personal love of volunteering and what it has meant to me over the years.

When I first began volunteering, I really only started as a way to bring my wonderful cat to as many people as possible, so that they too could experience the same joy he had brought me. What I received instead still reverberates in my life even to this day. There are many ways to look at what volunteering for 10 years did for me, but I think it’s best to begin with how it affected my whole outlook on life.

I didn’t know what kind of situations would come my way. All I knew was I was willing to be open to all that volunteering had to offer. I had always been a person who was inclusive to all types of people, but this opened me up in a whole new way. I volunteered with all age ranges and ethnic backgrounds. And because I had a specialty (my cat), it led me to not only cat lovers, but people who were either afraid of cats or just didn’t care for them. It helped me learn to discern who was in “need” and those who just wanted to watch from a distance. When it came to volunteering, I was never one who saw herself as someone to teach, help or guide others. I was only there so others could genuinely enjoy the interactions between human and animal. A special bond no doubt, but one where human to human interaction became a new building block to my own humanity.

One of the things I realized was you should never assume things about the people you’re volunteering for.  Everyone comes with their own personal stories that can be heartbreaking, but it’s vital to the act of volunteering to just be with that person wherever they may be at that time. I was lucky to have Killy show me how to do this effortlessly. Animals always meet you where you are in life, never expecting anything more than who you are and what you bring to this life. A great lesson for everyone to learn and use.

Many often believe, going into volunteering opportunities, that we are the ones who knows best. But I have found with my unique volunteering situation, it really is the person you’re interacting with that knows best. To be of service to others means putting down our own walls, our own perceptions and biases and just “Be” with the person. To live life to the fullest while volunteering is the epitome of being fully present.

I can think back to times of difficult circumstances and I would watch Killy use his special gift of intuition and knowing. He would provide exactly what the person needed without hesitation or a second thought. Whether quietly sitting in someone’s lap purring or rubbing his head against someone's hand because he wanted to be petted. It would bring such joy where there had not been joy, or laughter when the hallways had been silent for days. Bringing us all back to our most basic human needs and desires. To be loved, cherished and looked after.

The people I volunteered with, did this for me. By giving me the opportunity to give to them something we all take for granted, they in turn gave back my own sense of self. Someone who is ready to take on any challenge with love and perseverance while taking the time to take it all in, one moment at a time. Volunteering did that for me, and it can do it for you. If you just give it a try. I promise it won’t disappoint.

Written by Michelle Kilic for Vivadivine.

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