Margaret Cho said, “Sometimes when we are generous in small, barely detectable ways it can change someone else’s life forever.” I’d like to modify this to, “Sometimes when we are generous in small, barely detectable ways it can change our life forever.”
I am a volunteer for my local hospice. Once a week I spend an afternoon with a woman who is in the end stage of her life. Although her world is shrinking, she is still quite vital. She amazes me, and every time I spend time with her, my life expands and I feel richer.
Studies have been done on the health benefits of volunteerism. Research from Johns Hopkins in 2009 reported that older adults who tutored children or took part in some other form of volunteer service were able to delay or even reverse declining brain function.
But do we really need research to show us the value of helping others? Personally, I can’t recall ever feeling worse as a result of volunteering. Granted, just like anything else, donating time needs to be kept in balance with time for ourselves. Giving our time does not take precedence over getting sufficient sleep, exercise, and savoring life.
E.B. White wrote, “I arise in the morning torn between the desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.” I think it takes a little of both, and savoring the saving. When serving others, there is no line between giving and getting.