By: Justin Kruger, Founder of Project Helping
I get to volunteer a lot and I almost always look forward to it. Today, I did not. I don’t know why. Depression is an ongoing struggle for me. Sometimes it decides to poke it’s head out and surprise me at the worst possible times. Last night, for example, it decided I wasn’t going to sleep. That usually doesn’t work out well when you’re getting up early to volunteer.
Needless to say, the lack of sleep coupled with not feeling well did not make for a motivated me this morning. Regardless, I was up and ready to volunteer. Now, I said ready, not excited and certainly not happy. I was ready, as in prepared, not as in, “Let’s do this!”.
This isn’t the first time I’ve felt this way and it likely won’t be the last. However, I have quite a few volunteer experiences to draw on and I know quite well the amazing good it does when I’m struggling. Heck, it’s what I’ve built the entire Project Helping organization on, so I damn well believe it to my core. But I digress.
Volunteering it was, as planned. We had an amazing day lined up to help out at the Sewall Child Development Center. There was some manual labor involved, which my body certainly wasn’t too fired up about. Honestly, my mind wasn’t either. However, it was time to do something good and do it well.
When we arrived, we got set up and ready to meet our volunteer team for the day. This is absolutely my favorite part of every event. I love getting to meet the people who have given their time to volunteer with us and learn a bit about their story. Somehow I always forget this, but being social, being around other people and meeting new, amazing humans is a pretty fantastic way to improve your mood! So, step one complete and I’m feeling better already!
Once we have met everyone, we give a quick tour of the work we will be doing that way, break into teams and get after it. My first task was to clear out some dramatically overgrown trees and bushes near the back of the playground of the childcare center. Not hard work, but not a cake walk either. It was fairly obvious why they needed to come out; they were unsafe for the kids to play around and there were unsafe things in the bushes.
All the work that went into getting them out and cleaning it up only took about an hour, but the results were absolutely amazing. There was a place where the kids wouldn’t and fortunately couldn’t play now clean, safe and inviting! There is no way an hour can be spent better than that. I felt accomplished, fulfilled, dare I say it….better!
The rest of the day carried on the same way. In all, we spend three hours doing similar tasks around the center and generally making it more safe, fun and engaging for the children who call Sewall home for the better part of their days.
So, why tell this story? Why today? I’ve volunteered at almost 60 events in the past year, so what makes this one special? Nothing. Today wasn’t any different than the others, but it did remind me of one very important lesson. It is hard sometimes to bring yourself to do something, or anything, when you’re feeling depressed. I understand that as well as anyone. But I promise you, it’s worth it. Getting out and doing something to help someone else is absolutely the best thing you can do for yourself. It’s kind of a win/win!
Give it a try. And when you do, please consider sharing your story. We want to hear it.