I'd like to share an ongoing experience that has changed my frame of reference from one of expectation to one of gratitude.
I've been volunteering as a fitness coach at a local mission a half-day a week for six months now. Among other things, the mission offers three meals a day, lodging and medical care to those in our community who need assistance to get through a hard time and to eventually, hopefully, to get back on their feet. I've known about the mission for a long time and we've donated funds to help support their programs, but it took word-of-mouth (namely the fact that Mr. F2P does work there from time-to-time) to get me through the door. Despite knowing about the opportunity for some time, it took me a while to pull the trigger but I'm glad I chose to pursue it.
I experienced some trepidation initially and only committed to two months to start. The Health Services staff was in desperate need of a certified trainer and I knew I could at least offer a few months of weekly visits. Well, those two months turned into four, four into six, and I've now signed up to year's end and I expect to stay well into the New Year.
The mornings I offer up lead to a real win/win in my books. Offering my time and expertise to others has been incredibly rewarding. It feels wonderful to connect with others, even in the simplest ways. We can't discount the power of a smile, of remembering someone's name, of showing another individual they matter to us, of showing we can support them through tough times, of showing trust and respect when the world won't extend the same courtesy. And, this reality is most powerful of all when it's clear there are no string attached. The experience is rewarding beyond belief.
Based on previous volunteering experiences, I'd anticipated that level of fulfillment. However, what I hadn't anticipated was what it was going to do for me during the balance of the week. When I make my way home after spending my three to four hours at the mission, I see most things in my life in a different light. It feels as though I've donned a pair of gratitude glasses.
Our home and its contents don't look the same, nor do my relationships, my lifestyle, my aspirations, my health and wellness...I see all aspects of my life from the vantage point of someone starting with nothing. It feels like going from 0 to 100 MPH in an instant. It's psychologically dizzying, almost overwhelming.
This powerful feeling of gratitude makes me feel that I couldn't possibly need or want more than what I have available to me. It makes me feel spoiled to have access to so many resources and support, access to so many opportunities and possibilities, access to such a lavish life. It makes me realize that I can have just about anything I want or need. It makes me appreciate that nothing I truly desire feels unattainable. It also makes me feel that I have a responsibility to be a caring stewart of my life and the possibilities it offers me, and to help others achieve a similar state of abundance.
Volunteering has been the single most rewarding activity of 2015 for me. It's offered me a new level of appreciation for all that I am and all that I have in a way that giving money never has.
I hope that by sharing my experience I can invite others to discover the power of giving a portion of our time and attention to others who need it more than we can possibly comprehend.