loneliness and volunteerism…apparently a link
So…a new friend asked me the other day why I volunteered so much, what was my driving force? I don't get to volunteer nearly as often as I did because of my fieldwork rotations, but I volunteer at two pediatric hospitals, an Alzheimer's Day Center, and an Assisted Living facility – now that I'm on fieldwork I try to hit one of the pediatric hospitals 2x monthly (weekends), the AL facility 2-3x monthly (Bingo nights), the Alzheimer's Day Center and other pediatric hospital about 1x a month (when I get off early). I also try to send postcards pretty regularly, to people I know but especially to older people I know are lonely, in my project eleanor rigby. Anyway, the other day a friend commented I take on lonely people as projects (which I found an interesting take), and then this new friend asked me about my driving force, and I realized it was an interesting question. I believe volunteer work is important – I know some people literally cannot afford to do it, but there are many others who would/should. In fact I think a lot of lonely people would benefit from volunteering. But I guess I am digressing. Anyway, I thought it was an interesting question, and I realized that I guess I have an affinity for lonely people. I'm one of those people who can feel lonely in a crowded room – it's gotten a lot better the last few years, but I often felt lonely growing up and it's not a fun feeling. I guess knowing the feeling of loneliness makes me not want others to have to feel it. When I explained trying to alleviate some loneliness, the friend said….but the person will forget you were even there. And that reminded me of the story of man throwing stranded starfish into the ocean, saving them one by one and how to each one it saved, it made a difference. And so to me…yes, maybe that woman will forget in 5 minutes that I held her hand for an hour. But for that hour, she was content, and maybe even if she forgets she had a specific visitor, the sense of calmness it brought her, will linger a while.
I guess that was really a rambly incoherent paragraph but whatever, it's just thoughts in my head. 🙂 I challenge anyone reading this to take the time to do something nice for someone lonely within the next week – writing a quick postcard, holding a hand, a hug, a small gift, or most importantly, a few minutes of your focused time – can make such a huge difference.