Yesterday I was having a conversation with an acquaintance who thought maybe I should volunteer more. “It would add so much joy to your life”, she said. I appreciate her effort to make my life better with her ideas, but what she doesn’t know is that I have been volunteering since I was in sixth grade. Maybe before that, I’m sure my mom dragged me around to do something with her, but going to the senior center with my friend and her Aunt to basically waitress lunch to a large group of seniors is my first recollection of something I chose to do on my own.

This was in San Diego and in my mind now it was a really large facility. We would line up at the food window, grab a couple of plates and deliver them to people sitting at long banquet tables. I would always panic when someone would ask for something “special” like more butter or beans instead of mashed potatoes. It just wasn’t set up for me to be customizing anything and besides that, I would never remember who that person was, so I just sort of said “sure” and ignored the request. I was only 12, not a professional.

It was about the same time my family was volunteering for the Junior Diabetes Association bike-a-thons. My parents would man the checkpoints and I collected pledges and rode my bike - usually about 30 miles. Once my friend Heidi and I did it twice and rode over 60 miles. This was important to us because my younger sister was diagnosed with diabetes before she was a year old.

As an adult I have volunteered at a Humane Society in Los Angeles where I brushed bunnies, I produced the Habitat for Humanity Newsletter, I helped the Chamber of Commerce organize a community event, got back to the Diabetes Association and helped at a bike-a-thon, When I moved to CT I found the Humane Society and volunteered with their Special Events department, I formed a local MOMs Club 18 years ago and it’s still going strong, and most recently I have volunteered with hospice in a hospital. Unofficially, I like to go to the animal rescue places and talk to the horses. My sister had horses and when she passed away a few years ago, I seemed to think about horses all the time. So that’s a mutual need. They seem to like the attention.

I have tried to instill service into my kids as they were growing up by taking them to the town park clean-up day and taking our wagon up and down the street to collect trash. It seems like only yesterday that our town replaced their playscape and it was a huge community effort. I volunteered to be the Publicity Chairperson to help get people to donate materials, show up on the big day and get media coverage. My husband helped on that project too and it was a great experience to work with so many people from our community.

So yes, thank you acquaintance. You are right, volunteering is very fulfilling. Finding something you care about is the first step. What do YOU care about?

Robin Anderson