When I first read this prompt, I assumed that volunteering meant giving time to your community (serving food at a soup kitchen, visiting seniors, etc). Based on that, I was hesitant to answer the prompt out of embarrassment. I am not an actively engaged volunteer in my community, based on that definition of volunteering. Then I thought about it a little more and realised that I have been volunteering my whole life.
I have been involved in our regional association for over five years. I started out as a committee member, then took on a role on the Board of Directors. That led to the most important volunteer role I’ve had to date. Last year, I served as the President for our professional association. While it often felt like another full time job, this volunteer position taught me things I could not learn in my paid position. I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to serve in this capacity. Through that experience, I made amazing connections, particularly with some wonderful folks at ACUHO-I and plan to kick my service up to the international level. For now, I am working on smaller projects behind the scenes, and can’t wait to see what I’ll have the opportunity to be involved in next.
Thinking back, I have always been a volunteer. I was the kid that eagerly threw her hand up when the teacher asked for someone to show the new kid around school. I even went waaaaaay out of my comfort zone once, in the name of volunteering. This story is pretty funny…
When I was in grade 8, every kid in school [JK-grade 8] was required to receive the measles immunization. This took place over the course of just one day, in the schol gym. The kindergarten teacher came into my class and asked if any of us would volunteer to hold the kindergartners hands while they were getting their shots. Me, being the avid volunteer, threw my hand up, and I was chosen to help see one of the kids through this terrifying experience. I need to interject here and tell you that I am TERRIFIED of needles. To this day, I get faint just at the thought of needing to go to the doctors office. Anything medical related makes me queasy. So, me and the other grade 8 volunteers head to the gym and meet our kindergartners. I was paired up with a talkative, confident little boy. I can’t remember his name, but I’ll never forget his smile. When it was his turn, we went to the needle station (not the technical term) and he sat in the chair. As he was pulling his sleeve up, I started to feel very faint. He must have noticed, and loudly asked “HEY! ARE YOU OK???!” I wasn’t. Before I knew it, I had passed out, in front of my brave little kindergartner, and everyone else who was in the gym. When I came to, my little buddy had already had his shot and was happily sucking on the lollipop he received for being such a good sport. When he noticed that I was awake, he took the lollipop out of his mouth, pointed it towards me and said: “here, I think you need this more than I do.” He was five years old. That day I learned that I needed him so much more than he needed me.
Moral of this story? Volunteering, no matter how big or small the effort may seem, is so worth it. I’ve carried that story with me for all these years, and my memory of that day is still crystal clear. Sometimes you have to push yourself out of your comfort zone to get to the best experiences in life.