People often explore service and volunteer opportunities during times of transition. College students do internships. People new to retirement find meaningful projects by volunteering for local nonprofits. High School students volunteer doing service learning projects to explore their communities. People who have lost their jobs volunteer their time to give back and find pathways back into the workforce. And, leaders transition from their leadership roles to board service. Opportunities abound, yet people in transition often ask, “How do I know where to serve?”
There are two things that can become barriers to knowing where, how and when to serve. First, scope and scale. and second, “service guilt”.
Scope and scale are a challenge because there are so many needs. We often think and hear about large scale volunteer opportunities. For example, a mission trip, building a house with Habitat for Humanity, and preparing and serving food to the hungry. These are important and yet, sometimes the way into service are very small acts of helping, supporting and reaching out.
“Service guilt” is when we hear about somebody doing a great deed and we think…. “I should be volunteering? Or “I don’t have time for such a large scale commitment” Service and volunteering are acts of kindness and generosity. They need to fit our life styles and activate our strengths.
During the pandemic, people are concerned for their safety and health. Yet, at times I hear people feeling a little guilty about not volunteering. There are many ways we can volunteer at this time from home. Yet, perhaps it is those small acts of service we can focus on right now.
The key to unlocking where and how to serve is knowing your greatest talents. When you share your talents and strengths small acts of kindness, service and generosity come naturally. Below are some examples of how your strengths can turn into small and wonderful acts of service.
Optimism: If your strength is to be optimistic, fun and hopeful, then the world needs you to leverage that strength. Consider, setting up a time to share stories of gratitude with a group of friends or relatives. This can be a zoom connection, a letter, an email or a phone call.
Communication: Perhaps, you like to write. This is a wonderful time to share stories. Share a story with a child, listen to a story of a friend, be curious about other people’s stories from the past, the present and envision stories of the future. Help create hope in your family or friendship circles through story telling.
Compassion and Empathy: The world is full of emotions right now. My father-in-law passed away two weeks ago. The family could not gather to comfort, share stories, and move through the loss. I engaged my empathy by inviting everyone in the family to share photos of my father in law. We then created a video to celebrate his life and shared as an Easter gift to everyone.
Fix Things: If your talent is identifying problems and then fixing things, this is your time. Perhaps, you can help people on Zoom figure out how to set up a camera. Or maybe you can guide someone over the phone on how to repair a fence post. Many people can no longer access repair services and your strength is greatly needed throughout your community.
Learning how to use your strengths to find pathways into small acts of service can be an empowering way to contribute to family, society, and your community.
What small acts of service are you involved in at this time? How could you leverage your strengths to serve and help others.