By Lisa Kenny
Originally Published on March 7th, 2018
When you want to see change in the world around you, what do you do? Write a letter to your government representative? Comment on social media and share memes? Pray for a solution? Protest injustice? All of these things can help in some way, but to really change things for the better, it takes action.
Volunteering is a natural way to change the world, one person at a time. Every single day across our state, our nation and the world, volunteers are helping people learn to read, feeding the hungry, rescuing homeless animals, visiting the sick, mentoring teens, delivering meals, and doing simple acts of kindness that change the lives of others. Wherever there is a need in society, it seems that volunteer organizations spring into action to create lasting change.
But what about you? What difference can a single person make? Many people don’t volunteer because they think they have nothing to offer, no special skills. They aren’t sure where to start, or if they will be able to really do anything impactful. Nothing could be further from the truth.
There are hundreds of lonely people in nursing homes in every town, and they crave simple human companionship and someone to talk to. Maybe you play the ukulele, enjoy Bible studies, or like to dress up as a clown and make people smile….any of those things would be welcome to the residents of our nursing homes. You could read to someone who has lost their sight, or play checkers with a veteran who is widowed, or just hand out dollar store puzzle books and greet people. To volunteer at a nursing home, just call them, and ask about volunteering. You will certainly make a difference to the people you meet!
Are you passionate about animals? Animal shelters and Humane Societies are always looking for people to help care for dogs and cats, sometimes helping with cleaning and health care, or fostering an animal to help them get socialized, walking dogs, writing up Pet finder descriptions, or just cuddling with a traumatized pet. Contact your local animal shelter or group to volunteer, and you will literally be saving the lives of dogs and cats in your neighborhood and bringing years of joy to those who adopt them.
Volunteering has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. I’ve done both the visits to the nursing homes (and made some amazing friends) and spent countless wonderful hours volunteering at our dog pound, Humane Society, and fostering dogs and cats. Perhaps the most rewarding experience came from speaking to high school students about entrepreneurship, starting their own business, and following their dreams. One day while shopping at a local store, a young lady thanked me for saving her life. I was shocked that she said that! When she told her story, the impact of volunteering really hit home.
This young lady told me she had wanted to be an elementary school teacher her whole life. As a star student in science and math, she was pushed from about 8th grade on to go into engineering. Being a nice young lady, she studied and did well, pleasing her parents, the teachers, and the school counselor. She was valedictorian of her class! Two weeks before graduation, I was asked to speak to her class about careers. I encouraged these young people to follow their dreams, and do what they want to do with their lives. I gave examples of several friends and family who at midlife were the happiest people I knew, and apparently the story about my sister, Kimi Eklund and her restaurants hit home for her. Kimi had been fascinated by upscale restaurants and chefs since she was a child, and would ask for kitchen tours or to meet the chef when we were traveling. When she grew up, she became a restauranteur extraordinaire, and is very happy.
The young lady said, “That day I had planned to go home and commit suicide, because I couldn’t imagine what my life would be like if I had to be an engineer or scientist the rest of my life instead of teaching young children. You gave me the courage to speak to my parents and teachers and change my major, and I’m now in college for early childhood education. Your words saved my life. Thank you.”
You may feel like your few hours of volunteering might not really change anything, but this proves that you never know how much you are helping others. You may not change the world, but you can change the world for the person that you help. Each of us has God given talents to share with the world, how will you use them to make a difference?
Lisa Kenny is a Marketing Specialist at Sanilac Broadcasting and owner of On Target Marketing in Sandusky, Michigan. A lifetime Sanilac County resident, she is passionate about helping small business succeed so future generations can enjoy the benefits of small town, rural living. She grew up working in her family’s clothing stores in Croswell, Sandusky and Bad Axe, and started her first business at age 15 to pay her way through business school at Northwood Institute. Lisa is President of Woman’s Life Chapter 867 of Sanilac County, and loves raising awareness and funds for worthy causes in the area like the Sanilac County Humane Society. She is happily married to Scott and they reside just outside Sandusky with their pack of rescue dogs, cats and a bunny.
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