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]
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…