The recent wildfires in Northern California were a dramatic testament to the need for community, proving that all of us are — without question — our brother's keeper. And what better population to energize compassion than the unmarried, sandwiched between generations (usually with fewer obligations) and freer to use their time and energy for the greater good? Start this new adventure with a bit of self-inquiry.
—"How much time can I give?" Better to underestimate at first so you don't hurl yourself into demanding commitments that leave a bitter taste in your mouth. My advice is to start slowly, with a short-term project. There will be plenty of time later for deeper involvement.
—"What do I want to give to volunteer work?" This is where your list of strengths we discussed in earlier columns enters the picture. Which of them do you want to contribute to your community?
—"What environment is best for me? An inside job or an outside job? With people or in research? A local setting, where I can see a direct result of my actions, or in a bigger, world-community project?" The details are not all that important; what matters is that you do your work in a setting right for you. There you will be at your very best.
Finally, think hard about — and ask close friends for — names of organizations that might interest you and utilize your strengths. Remember that volunteer work isn't meant to be drudgery. Don't intentionally choose a job you loathe to feel like a martyr. (For Pete's sake, don't sign up for hospital work if you hate the very sight of blood!) You'll get so much more from volunteering if you choose areas that jibe with your natural bent.
Where to begin? Well, if you're interested in local opportunities, consider food banks, crisis hotlines, tutoring children, recording books for the blind, working with the mentally or physically impaired, Meals on Wheels or providing transportation for the infirm, disabled or elderly.
If you'd rather get involved in national organizations, some suggestions: Mothers Against Drunk Driving, March of Dimes, Sierra Club, the handgun control movement, Save the Whales, Planned Parenthood.
And don't forget international causes. For example, Save the Children; Oxfam, fighting world hunger; PeaceNow.com; and Amnesty International, fighting for human rights.
DEAR READERS: We've uncovered a treasure-trove of "Single File" paperbacks — in perfect condition, ready to read. Send $15 and your address to: Susan Deitz, C/O Creators Syndicate, 737 Third St., Hermosa Beach, CA 90254. I'll send you a signed copy.
Have a question for Susan? You can reach her directly at [email protected]