Volunteering as Therapy
To the multitude of volunteers who made the recent Apple Triathlon possible: Thank you!
I was struck by your generosity.
You were there at every twist and turn in the route, keeping us on track and cheering us on. You were also there with a cold drink at stations along the way.
You were there really, really early to set up, stayed until the end to clean up, and you did all sorts of other things to make the remarkably complex engine of a triathlon possible.
Most of those you helped with your generous contribution of time and effort were complete strangers to you. Is that, perhaps, one of the most beautiful expressions of the human spirit: helping a complete stranger?
Of course, the volunteer efforts at the Apple Triathlon are a small representation of the incredibly significant amount of volunteer effort that surrounds us. So many important organizations in our community rely on the generous contributions of volunteers.
As with other beautiful expressions of the human spirit, those who give of themselves as volunteers derive a benefit from their service. It feels good to give!
It also feels good to get out and about, connect socially with others, face challenges and feel valued.
It is these benefits that can make volunteering an important “therapy”.
We sometimes grumble to ourselves about dragging our butts out of bed to face another day at the shop or office. The reality is that in addition to providing a means to pay our rent and put food on the table, our jobs give us that reason to get out of bed, connects us with others, challenges us, and gives us value.
Lose the “opportunity” to work, whether it’s by way of a layoff, retirement, or injury, and all those “benefits” are stripped away. This, obviously, can have a negative impact on our mood.
In the case of injury, which is where this comes around to my neck of the woods as a personal injury lawyer, the medical science is clear that a lowered mood can have a negative impact on recovery.
It’s a vicious cycle. You’re hurt. Your injury not only causes pain and discomfort, but it takes you away from work and other activities. These factors lower your mood. Your lowered mood interferes with your recovery. That interference further lowers your mood and the cycle continues.
Volunteering can help to break the cycle.
Most volunteer opportunities can accommodate injury limitations in ways that returning to a job cannot. Volunteer functions, like monitoring a section of triathlon course, can be physically as well as time flexible. Shorter or longer time commitments can be arranged as well as greater or less physical exertion.
Subject to medical advice to the contrary, my recommendation to those whose work and activities are interrupted by injury is to be as active as possible, returning to your work and activities as soon as medically possible.
In the meantime, while your injuries are getting in the way of returning to your regular work and activities, volunteering provides an excellent therapeutic opportunity, one that not only you but the rest of us will greatly benefit from.