Just not the kind of pay day that results in an actual paycheck (i.e. money).
But that’s okay.
You see, I’m one of those lucky people who has an awesome volunteer job. Mine happens to be at the Orting Food Bank (www.ortingfoodbank.org), where I get to work with a wonderful group of volunteers and help distribute food to a bunch of really nice people. It’s a job I love and that–for a few hours of time given each week–pays me back more richly than I probably deserve. Indeed, holding various volunteer positions over the years since my very first one, at 15, I’ve learned that “payment” from volunteering comes in many different guises, such as:
Confidence, self-esteem, and friendship: As a shy and occasionally bullied teen, I was woefully short on friends and self-esteem. My first volunteer gig–helping keepers care for exotic animals at our local zoo (including Siberian tigers and Kodiak bears)–brought new human and animal friends into my life, plus showed me that I was stronger, braver, and more capable than I’d thought.
Direction, knowledge, and experience: I remember returning from my first day of zoo volunteer work weary, smelly, and absolutely certain of one thing: I wanted to be a zoo keeper more than anything else in the world. The knowledge and experience gained from volunteering at two zoos and a wildlife park turned that starry-eyed dream into reality.
Increased connection, empathy, and happiness: Freelance writing tends to be a lonely profession, and volunteering at the food bank these past 10 months has given me some much-needed socialization. Connecting with others–hearing their stories and words of gratitude, feeling another person’s happiness or pain, or even just sharing strategies for dealing with giant zucchini–brings me outside my own small world with its huge-seeming worries and problems. Each Friday, I’m paid in conversation, laughter, and joy.
And that’s payment enough for me.
PS. If you happen to live in the area, the Orting Food Bank–which runs a summer kids’ lunch program–desperately needs donations of peanut butter and jelly, as well as meat. Also, if you have an overabundance of garden goodies (like these potatoes), your local food bank would probably love to have them!
How has volunteering paid you back?
Thanks for reading!