Benefits of volunteering far outweigh costs

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

What goes around, comes around.

That bit of wisdom is more than a cliché, as more of us are discovering as the "me generation" of baby boomers transition into a needier stage of life.

Getting involved and thinking about others is better than any pharmaceutical, and volunteering for the less fortunate can put one's problems into perspective better than many expensive hours of counseling.

Time magazine's cover story this week explores ways returning Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are recovering from post-traumatic stress by getting involved with innovative volunteer organizations for the betterment of their communities, fellow veterans and themselves.

Anyone who has spent much time volunteering can tell you, the rewards of doing so far outpace the investment of time and energy.

Volunteering can help provide motivation and a sense of achievement. You can learn a new skill or develop one you already have. Donating your time (and treasure) can result in a new hobby and help create balance in your life.

Volunteering can provide new and exciting experiences, result in new friends from a diverse range of people, and even advance your career.

A recent survey in England found that 73 percent of employers would recruit a candidate with volunteering experience over one without, and 94 percent of employees and employers believed that volunteering could help land a new job, improve a salary or land a promotion.

Chase County High School recently made community service a graduation requirement -- this year's freshmen will have to complete 40 hours of verified community service by the time they graduate.

Of course, one has to wonder whether requiring a teenager to volunteer to graduate advances the true spirit of volunteerism; ditto for court-ordered community service.

The same questions can be raised about the idea of a National Service Program, such as exists in some European countries.

An Aspen Institute study cited in the Time article found that 57 percent of those surveyed would favor such a program, to benefit people in need as well as providing benefits such as job training, learning experiences and building a greater sense of national unity.

On the other hand, 38 percent oppose mandatory national service because people who want to serve should find their own ways of getting involved and giving back. They fear it would be another costly government program at a time when we can least afford it.

A more telling question on the same survey, however, found that 42 percent of the respondents had done no volunteer work in the past year, compared to 14 percent a few times a week or more, 20 percent a few times a month, 18 percent a few times a year and 4 percent less often than that.

Regardless of the motivation, however, especially when it comes to our time, the words of a wise man continue to ring true: "It is more blessed to give than to receive."

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