A little backstory on how this came up: last year, I read Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project. I was so impressed, I followed her on Twitter, Facebook, and her blog. On Facebook, she often asks questions of the “Do you do X or Y?” or “Do you do X, and why?” variety. This week, one of her questions was about volunteering.
My first reaction was that I barely have time for work, writing, and family. I don’t have time for that beyond the very little I do to support my son’s band (work in the student store roughly once a month and bake occasionally). Then I wound up swamped because I was working on two different things I’d volunteered to help with (for SFWA and GSSW, two different writers’ groups I belong to), and the only reason there wasn’t a third was all the snow and ice this week (this being the week I was supposed to work the student store).
Then, thinking about it further, I realized I’m actually a permanent volunteer because I’m a moderator at the Forward Motion for Writers forums.
I always tend to think about volunteering as going somewhere on a regular basis — I’ve considered volunteering at the local library for example — but that doesn’t cover much of my actual volunteer activities. What the activities have in common, though, are that they’re things I enjoy doing, things I feel competent at. I don’t have to work in a soup kitchen or visit a nursing home or spearhead some grassroots organization. I literally can make a difference doing things that suit my personality.
Part of me still wonders if I’m cheating somehow — wouldn’t it be better to run for office in GSSW, or be active in the PTA, or . . .
Another part tells me I am being useful, an we can’t all take on the same tasks. I think that’s the part I’ll listen to.
What about you? Do you volunteer? How do you decide where to put your time and energy?