Why do I volunteer

I recently shared a post on why people volunteer.  Before you read this, I highly recommend checking that out.  I spoke about the many reasons people volunteer, myself included.  However, I did not go into depth on the reason why I personally started volunteering then, so I thought I would take the opportunity now to talk about this now..

[Trigger warnings – depression and suicidal thoughts]

Audrey Hepburn Quote

There’s a lot of reasons why I volunteer now, which were mentioned in my last post.  But I wanted to take this opportunity to talk about one moment in particular that really changed my life…  A moment that I can still remember today – even though it has been over ten years…  As corny as this may seem, let me try to explain the reason why I started volunteering.  Now trust me when I say that this may seem very cheesy but it’s the truth, and sadly the truth can sometimes be cheesy.  I didn’t realise it at that time but when I was twelve, I suffered from depression.  I was sad and angry and confused…  but more than that, I felt alone – very alone – and quite afraid.  I hated that feeling…  Feeling alone even when you were surrounded by people who love you.

Every day I would wake up, go to school, laugh with my friends, do absolutely everything I could to avoid studying and just do what every other child did but behind my laugh, I felt empty.  At school I would maintain a smile on my face, hiding my feelings inside.  At home I would get angry easily, be irritable and push people away – which just made me feel even more alone – hiding my feeling behind a wall of anger.  This continued for a while, I don’t remember how long it lasted to be honest.  That’s a stage of my life that I have managed to forget about.  What I cannot ever forget, however, is that one day, I realised that I no longer lived for anything.  I didn’t want to die but I didn’t really want to live either…  I mean, I was living and breathing but I never felt alive.  I just felt numb.  That feeling was the worst.  I remember clearly one day, I got so fed up with how I felt that I started praying to God.  Little me didn’t know if God existed or not (I was questioning whether I actually believed in God or just thought God existed as I had heard others believe that) but I remember thinking that if there was a God out there then perhaps he would listen to me if I prayed.

I prayed for ages.  Not for happiness, not for this feeling to go away, not for myself…  I prayed to ask God to give me someone else’s pain and suffering.  I begged him to take away someone else’s pain and give it to me.  I reasoned with him (or her).  I would rather God made others happy and if he/she couldn’t do that without putting that sadness and pain somewhere else, then he/she should give it to me – and I’ll take it.  I’ll take all of the pain and sadness he wanted to give me, if it made someone else even a little bit happier, if it made them smile even if only for a moment.

I remember that day clearly – because it was the first day I truly felt alive.  Unknowingly, I had found my reason to live.  Helping others, making others smile and bringing joy to their lives…  Twelve year old me learnt something very important that day: making other people happy made me happy.  And that reason became the reason I started to volunteer, why I wanted to help charities and do what I can for my local community.  The employability, the skills, the friendships, the experience – all of those things were bonuses.  I volunteer simply because it makes others happy.  And this realisation was the moment I was born.  It wasn’t the date on my birth certificate.  But because for the first time in as long as I could remember, I didn’t want to die anymore – I wanted to live so I could ease someone else’s pain, even if only for a minute.

I had found my reason to live.

I found it in serving others.  Volunteering allowed me to help make the world a better place and gave me a purpose in life…  It gave me a reason to live…

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