Volunteering is a pretty common thing in today's world. From high school sports teams to scouting organizations to those brave enough to adopt a litter-filled highway, it seems that just about everyone participates in the act of selfless service at least once in a while. But as you go off to college it's easy to lose sight of the benefits of something that takes up your time with no tangible reward; I mean, you're expected to focus on school, to work and pay off loans and to somehow enjoy the college experience and make lifelong friends all at once. Cramming in volunteer hours into the midst of all that sounds pretty much crazy, unless it'll help you quickly cinch that scholarship you've been after or make you look good for that job that pays a few more dollars an hour.
Volunteering in college is so unbelievably valuable and it's often overlooked because of the stress of school, impending debt and working to actually make an income. But there's something fundamentally amazing about the act of selfless service that can enhance your college experience like nothing else. Yes, it can put you on the map of "good people" and help you get recognized in all kinds of ways, but it's so much more important than those superficial benefits.
Volunteering can open your eyes to the world you live in and help you feel more empowered and capable. It can force you to think beyond yourself — something that is vital when you're at a point in life where it's easy to drown in self pity (let's be real about college, it's not as easy as you used to think). Service can remind you of the smallness of your own trials and provide a necessary reality check when things become too much.
Taking time out of your week to give to others and focus on problems that have nothing to do with you is one of the best decisions you can make. It widens your perspective and opens your mind. It might drag you far, far out of your comfort zone — and the farther the better because the best realizations come in the most difficult moments.
Not to mention that serving can help battle all sorts of self-esteem and depression problems; when you're feeling low, one of the most therapeutic solutions is to do something to help someone else. It reminds you of your value and your ability to change lives (even your own). It assures you of the fact that even though it might not feel like it at times, you are capable of handling situations you've never faced. You are adaptable. You are strong. And you can teach others to be the same.
We need to get over this idea that volunteering is a supplemental activity for when you have an abundance of free time and incorporate it into our everyday lives as an unquestionable part of our schedules. It may not be as desirable as making profit working overtime or taking a much craved nap, but it's worth it. Not only can you change the lives of others, but you can completely transform your own. We need to transcend serving to “log hours” and instead start to feel what it's like to get out there and do something openly, honestly and without expectation.
Too much of our world is about fair trades and what we get in return and it's overwhelmingly refreshing to abandon that mentality at least for a moment. In giving your time and talents to others you will discover just as many things about yourself as you will about the world. And that’s an important thing — no strings attached.
Lead Image Credit: Walt Disney Pictures and Pixar Animation Studios