A good friend used to tell me that I should do some volunteer work. I thought about it for half a second, then I continued talking about me me me and my my my problems.
Years later, when I finally decided to reach out with a helping hand; my life changed.
I started volunteering at the Denver Botanic Gardens a few times a week. I took on a project in the Development Department re-organizing a walk-in filing system that was nicknamed “The Titanic.” That name was appropriate.
I treated it like a job—I took pride and worked hard at it. At the time, I was struggling with a severe depression. The gifts that volunteer work gave me were precious and priceless. I got a warm solid feeling of contributing and the pride of being of service during a time when I was fighting a battle to live. It gave me a break from the battle. Helping helped me.
The Gardens gave me a place to go. It gave me structure. In the foggy haze of depression, I practiced my abilities to focus and organize. It helped to be around people, socialize a little bit and to walk through those beautiful gardens every day.
I become close to my “boss,” the woman I worked directly with. She often took me to prime “secret” spots in the gardens to have lunch together. She totally accepted me even though I was a little bit out of it. We had deep conversations and her presence gave me hope. I felt appreciated for my hard work.
I was proving to myself that I could volunteer my skills and gifts in a place of purpose, despite not believing in myself. My actions of helping was in contradiction to the lies that depression told me. It helped me break through to the reality that I was a valuable human being who contributes to making this world a better place, just by being me and taking positive action. It gave me a safe and rewarding place to spend my time, the opportunity to help and feel the help from helping, even in the midst of weathering a depression.
The gift of being of service, is having a positive impact on human life. It shows you that you DO make a difference.