by Kelly Whitty
on Wednesday, December 2nd, 2020 at 11:25am.
I’ve always been attracted to the idea of volunteering. There is definitely something rewarding about giving up your time, especially when you can see the results. I can still remember clearly my first volunteer experience when I was 13, at the Misericordia hospital here in Edmonton. I believe the inspiration came from reading Sweet Valley High novels, and the stories of one of the twins being a Candy Striper at the local hospital. Or maybe it was Nancy Drew? Anyhow I soon found out that at our local hospital you didn’t get to start out pushing a magazine cart around, chatting with appreciative patients that told you how sweet you were and slipped $5 bills into your hands, or getting to work the cash register at the hospital gift shop. No, at the Misericordia you started out washing dishes in the cafeteria. Scrubbing gummy, slimy left over soup out of giant pots and feeding them through the industrial dishwasher was certainly not fun and at the time did not seem overly rewarding. I never did make it to Candy Striper as my 13 year old self wasn’t overly driven and had a habit of giving up on things when they got hard. Also similar to my 20 year old self….but fast forward 20ish years, okay, maybe 30ish years, there are no shortage of volunteer opportunities once you have kids in school and any extra curricular activities. My 40 something year old self has become much more responsible and I do mostly finish things that I started, especially with my volunteer commitments.
For the last 3 and a half years I’ve been volunteering as the Chair on the school council for my kid’s school. I won’t lie, it’s been a little tedious and there’s times I just don’t feel like doing it. And some of my motives are self-serving. If people appreciate the volunteer work I do, and they know I’m a Real Estate Agent, maybe they’ll want to engage my services? Volunteering is a great way to get to know your community and stay in the know. We had a recent experience with boundary changes for our school. It was a blow to our school community and while we weren’t all affected by it, the families that were affected, were our friends and fellow volunteers. If you want to talk angry mob, tell a family that has put in countless hours volunteering to build a park that they have no choice but to change schools and start over again. (I got my 3 seconds of fame on the news for backing up my friends and fellow volunteers on that one). Nothing feels better than knowing you’ve made a difference. And even if your efforts didn’t make a difference at least you tried. I’m sure that line is on a meme somewhere.
You don’t realize how important volunteers are when you send your kids to a brand-new school, and guess what? In our city, schools don’t come with parks, or with the money to build them. Or when you register your eager child for a team sport and guess what? There won’t be a team unless there’s a coach. My husband and I have both found ourselves trying to teach young kids a sport we were never good at as kids. It seems thankless. And you’re often forced to spend time with people that you probably wouldn’t spend time with otherwise. It’s good to keep growing though, isn’t it? To put ourselves in situations that take us out of our comfort zone? We make our children do it. (Siblings don’t count) You will always come across personalities you don’t click with, but when you get an email from a parent, thanking you for taking the time to make their shy, not overly athletic child feel good and enjoy team sports, or you get a bottle of wine dropped off from a fellow parent because you helped her fulfill her volunteer commitment, you’ll keep going. When you walk your kids to school, and staff greet you by name, crack a joke, and the school principal notices your dog has a new sweater, you’ll feel good. Your dog will feel good.
You’ll make friends, your community will thank you, and you’ll be a better person for it.