Why do you want to volunteer with our organization?
I completed applications this week to volunteer with two different organizations and this question appeared on both of them. Why do you want to do this? It seems like such a simple, almost unnecessary, question. I mean, doesn’t everyone volunteer to “help others”? As I reflected on what I was going to write as my answer, I found it went a lot deeper than that.
A few months back I ran into my good friend and coworker at a lunch-to-go counter at the store across from our office. Erin has always been a powerful role-model for me; she’s someone who you simply can’t help but be inspired by. She’s been a bright light in my world since I met her and I continue to learn and grow through our ongoing interactions.
We were both in line to buy food when we came across each other. I assumed we were both buying lunch to take back to the office, but on our way out of the store I came to find out that Erin wasn’t buying for herself. She was buying lunch for a girl who was begging for money near the entrance. She had noticed that it was clearly a hard day for her and wanted to give her what she could. As if that wasn’t generous enough, when we walked out of the store together, Erin began a conversation with the girl. The girl expressed her gratitude for the food, but also asked Erin if she could spare anything else, as she was feeling very desperate and struggling to keep the heat on at home. Erin listened to her, empathized with her, and then reached into her purse to give her what she had. I stood there taking in what was transpiring before me; a beautiful, incredible display of humanity and compassion.
After this exchange, Erin and I had a discussion about how we wish we could do more for those struggling. It reminded me of the organizations and efforts I was involved in during my university days. To clarify, I’ve been out of university for many years now. That made me think, hard.
It’s been months since this interaction happened but the effects still resonate with me.
I think of Erin every time I pass people on the street on my way to get coffee. I think of her when I make eye contact with them. I think of her when I acknowledge them as human beings. I think of her when I search for change in my pockets. I think of her when I sit and ponder what more I could do.
She sparked in me a desire to show more compassion and be as generous as I can be (and to be more honest with myself about how much I can truly spare). She woke me up to the forgotten passion I have for such causes, and gave me the drive to go after them again. This is important, and it’s important to me. Erin is my inspiration to dust off that part of me and volunteer with a local food bank. She reminded me that it’s not just about giving change, it’s about being the change.
Sarah recently started tutoring a Syrian family. It’s simply among the many wonderful things this friend has done in her life. She’s another generous soul who treats everyone she comes in contact with as equals, and gives support and love wherever she can.. and does it all with a laid back, down to earth demeanour that simultaneously brightens your day and calms you down, simply by being in her presence. I have always admired Sarah and this recent endeavour with a Syrian refugee family only made this admiration grow.
I have been touched by the stories of refugees coming to Canada. I have felt proud and furious at the reactions Canadians have had. I realized when answering the obvious question on the application that I have been more moved and emotionally engaged than I had been aware of. I realized there were emotions I had been avoiding, and the reasons behind those emotions are what makes me so motivated to do something.
The why is meaningful. It’s full of important emotions, life-changing moments, and beautiful people. Knowing your own why will help you acknowledge what’s within you and who has inspired you.
There’s usually a who behind the why. Even the lesson of how important it is to acknowledge people who inspire you and express your gratitude for that inspiration was a lesson I learned through someone. Lacey, who was practically a stranger at the time, wrote me to tell me how she was inspired to write about authenticity after an email-chat we had where I shared my vulnerability. Feeling the effects of her showing me gratitude for inspiration in turn inspired me to be dedicated to do the same for those behind my own whys – and for that I am grateful to her.
I’m lucky and proud to have so many wonderful role models in my life who show me firsthand how beautiful people can be and inspire me to be better. Our ideas don’t fall out of the sky. Even original ideas start somewhere. If someone sparks something in you, show the gratitude for the light you’ve received by shining some back in their direction.
Being inspired is a gift. Don’t forget to say thank you.
I would like to dedicate this post to Erin, Sarah, and Lacey, for being the beautiful whos behind my whys. And for everyone else in my life who continues to teach and inspire me. Thank you.