Anyone who knows me knows that I am sucker for volunteering and jumping in to help. Around the holidays I tend to do many free photo events because I feel that a picture transcends time. As years pass, a photo becomes a treasured source of reflection on special moments and the good ole days. That one day of volunteering my services can bring someone a lifetime of happy memories, and can even be passed down for generations.
At the end of the day, although we don’t like to talk about it, there is a certain selfishness about it. A lot of us are uncomfortable with the idea that you can enjoy benefits from volunteering.
But here’s nothing wrong with getting a kick out of doing good! I love the dose of deep joy I get when I give. There are several aspects of giving that I enjoy. Some perks of volunteering have absolutely nothing to do with emotional rewards. Free photo events give me an opportunity to connect with other local businesses. That might not have been my motivating reason for participating, but it sure is nice to earn some recognition while doing something I love. And I get to meet some cool people to boot!
2015 - Lehman HS - Tree Lighting Volunteer Students
2016 - Lehman HS - Tree Lighting Volunteer Students
And you know what? There’s nothing wrong with that either. Admitting it makes some of us a little squirmish. But what about, instead of seeing volunteering as charity, we think of it as a gift exchange. You get an awesome picture of your kid with Santa, and I get to go home feeling joyful. Or I get a referral. It’s win-win.
If you think about it, this kind of exchange happens all the time in our everyday lives. Maybe you helped out with the school bake sale and earlier that day, someone tutored your child in math. Or you offered to speak at an event and someone helped you pick out material for your speech.
When we think about it that way, it’s easier to be honest about why we volunteer. The initial reason doesn’t even have to be giving-focused.
Do you want to check something off your bucket list? Volunteer at a film festival or a charity gala and you might get to walk the red carpet, or at least take a selfie on it. (Although as a photographer I would normally tell you to "Just Say No” to Selfies, red carpet events are on the list of exceptions) Or it could be something less glamorous: I have a friend whose fantasy job was to be a professional gift wrapper at Macy’s. That never happened, but it did motivate her to volunteer wrapping presents for charities that deliver gifts to children at Christmas.
But why stop at one? You can volunteer at different places for different reasons. Donating my time and talents with our local Throggs Neck Merchant Association gives me a tremendous sense of pride in my neighborhood while making a positive impact in the lives of my neighbors.
We all have a certain selfishness that probably comes from our "survival” gene. It also allows us to stop and enjoy that feel-good moment. It keeps us connected, and we are, after all, social beings. So why not enjoy it?
Be generous. Be selfish. Be happy.