April 3, 2014 — United Way St. Louis
To read this article on United Way’s website, click here.
By Jessica Shank
Not too long ago, I was trying to get a friend to do a service project with me. During my attempt to persuade, she asked me the dreaded what’s-in-it-for-me question. I like to call this the WIIFM. If you like to volunteer, I am sure someone has asked you this question before. Typically, I botch the answer and give a generic, “because it’s fun.” For those that do not volunteer, I can see how a project doing yard work may not seem like much fun because you think WIIFM? So instead of my general answer, I’d like to share five of my personal WIIFMs for volunteering.
1. Learn something new
While volunteering, I have learned plenty of things that I can use in real life situations. Do you know what it means to toenail a board? The best indoor painting technique? How to plant a new garden? The third verse of “Joy to the World”? The best bleach-to-water ratio for disinfecting toys? While I could use a search engine to find the answer, the actual hands-on experience has no comparison. I’ve learned all of these things, plus many more, while doing service and have accomplished things I never knew I could. Now I can paint my own home, plant my own herb garden and clean my house in a way I couldn’t before.
2. Appreciate what you have
Service makes me realize how good I really have it. Several years ago, I volunteered with Habitat for Humanity to help build a house. One requirement of Habitat for Humanity is that the future homeowner volunteers to help build their new house. The day I volunteered, the future homeowner was working with us. I went in that day knowing I was going to be hammering nails into boards, but what I forgot was that I was actually helping this woman build her home. It was so amazing to hear how excited she was to be getting this home and how truly grateful she was for everyone’s hard work. A place to live is something I have always had. Because of her, I try to appreciate what I have, especially the simple things, like a place to live, I take for granted.
3. Get your hands dirty
I work full time in an office, and while I feel a sense of accomplishment when I am able to move a stack of papers from one side of my desk to the other, it is nothing compared to actually seeing an achievement. For example, I once volunteered with GenNext at a school. This organization had just acquired the school and it was in much need of some TLC. That day, our job was to paint the school. When the day started, the walls were faded, chipping and a mess. By the end of the day, my hands (and most of my clothes) were covered in paint, but I saw a completely transformed place with a fresh coat of paint.
4. Meet new people
This is especially true with GenNext! I have met some great people while volunteering. You gain a sense of camaraderie when you are volunteering with a group of people. Many times, I started my day not knowing a single person. However, when you are there together digging through the mud to plant a garden and a massive spider invades your personal space and you completely freak out and people learn of your complete irrational fear of spiders — you can’t help but bond with the people beside you. Not like that has ever happened before.
5. Change your life
I can honestly say, my life would not be the same without volunteering. We live in a society that is all about me, me, me. At a volunteer project, you have the opportunity to forget about yourself for a while and do something for someone that cannot do it alone. Personally, I think this is the best reason to volunteer. Whether it is as big as building a house for someone or as small as cleaning a child’s toy, if we all did something, big or small, we can make a difference. And, who knows, it could change your life.
Those are just a few of my favorite reasons to volunteer, my personal WIIFMs. I know that we all have our own WIIFMs. Share why you volunteer. What is your WIIFM?
United Way of Greater St. Louis mobilizes the community with one goal in mind – helping people live their best possible lives.