Getting me up off the wall


– When all else fails, give.

This is the simplest life-saving lesson I learned so far.

As someone prone to flights of moodiness, of feelings of despair, of falling into the quagmire of poor-me-ism, and this-bad-feeling-is-it, giving lifts me up (well that and running).

I was introduced to this idea of selflessness and service years ago. It took me a decade of refinement before it really sank in to the point that it  occurs as a solution to my problems automatically.

A week ago for example I was down because one big project came to an end.

I usually get a little blue once a task is finished because I pour so much of myself into achieving it. Somewhere along the way in a project reaching the end becomes all-consuming and when it is gone I am left feeling, what now? Or, just as often, where did I make errors, how could I have done that better, did I do good enough? Was the effort worth the reward?

So, this is where my head was last Sunday around noon. Laundry was done, dog was walked, and the grass was cut. Family was out-of-town and I didn’t have anything to do until a 4 p.m. monthly board meeting for a non-profit I serve on. I browsed Facebook bored, and came across a posting by someone I “friended” seeking volunteers to clean up the local dog park.

A fellow volunteer cleans up a fence line at the dog park.

I knew no one there, but I knew if I went and lent a hand I would feel somewhat better. So, I went and sweat and made awkward introductions and picked up litter for a couple of hours before moving onto my next appointment (which lucky for me is very casual and no one minded my sweating).

The dog park clean up was one of those volunteer opportunities where I knew the cause didn’t need me. I needed it.

When blue I need to feel like I am serving something that I am getting nothing from, other than a release from my self,  selfish motives, doubts and desires – basically all the little things that at times drive me to distraction, inaction, or despair if I am not careful.

The brief jaunt into helping got me through most of the week.

By Saturday, I was sagging again in spirit.  Luckily Saturday was a regular volunteer commitment I made over a year and a half ago at the local Ronald McDonald House. I try to volunteer the first and third Saturday each month there doing whatever needs to be done (mostly cleaning and household work). This too got neglected do to work though through June and the first of July.

I actually worried my name tag may be gone and I might be out of the system once I got there. Of course it was all good and my fellow volunteers were happy to see me. Once again, the volunteer opportunity doesn’t need me, but I need it.

Nothing spectacular happened at the House Saturday. I gave tours to a couple of new families. I moved some refrigerators. I chatted with staff. But still . . .

I would challenge anyone to give or volunteer at their local house if they have the chance. What volunteers and the non-profit’s staff do is inspiring, and puts at least part of the world right. It did mine and this time in a deeper sense than even the dog park.

On one hand it’s so easy for me to forget to give. Thank goodness on the other hand it has become easier to remember.

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