In Praise of Volunteering
As regular readers know, I volunteer at a local animal shelter. But it's not my first volunteer gig. I've had a history going back a while, mostly in AIDS organizations. But I've also volunteered at a local museum, doing writing/editing for a few non-profits, picking up trash, delivering meals, and various other positions.
In my case I am unemployed by choice. When I got fed up working for an international fruit-named high tech company, I knew I wanted a complete change. And here I am. Broke and loving it. Of course I couldn't do this if it weren't for the support (both emotional and monetary) of my wonderful Husband. But even when I was working full time I made sure to give back to the world. Sure back then I wrote more checks and logged fewer volunteer hours. But I suppose I've always wanted to be one of the good guys.
The one thing that never fails to amaze me is how hard people will work for no money. Those of us who work at the shelter do it because we love animals and we want to help them. Many of my fellow volunteers have been there for over ten years. This marks my third summer there and I can't imagine ever giving it up. The volunteers there do everything from the easy (playing with cats, taking dogs for a walk) to the hard (maintenance work, fence building, laundry, carrying 50 lb. sacks of food around). They give freely of their time and normally work longer and harder than they need to.
We occasionally get free cookies and leftover pizza, but other than that our only pay is in purrs and licks. And the satisfaction of seeing an animal find a home. And every time I get tired and think I've put in enough time, there's always someone there whose been there longer who makes me want to stay so I can be just like them.
Organizations like the one I work with wouldn't exist without volunteers. There's no way these groups could afford the salary to hire the workers necessary to do all we do. In this case, they certainly wouldn't be a no-kill shelter. Problem dogs and cats would most likely be euthanized rather than given special attention. So, in many ways, we save lives when we go in and do what we do.
I've often said this is the best paying non-paying job I've ever had. Sure I hate being broke. And I feel bad because I'd like Husband to have an easier life and would like someday to afford our own house. But right now I wouldn't change a thing. I don't need 20 pairs of shoes or a new car (OK, maybe I'll need one soon. Mine is 12 years old with 170,000 miles on it.) I'd rather do without than do without the care I can give to these critters in search of a home.
So to all of you who volunteer, thank you. You make miracles happen. You keep the world fed, cared for, and loved. You inspire me. And I want to be just like you when I grow up.