Why volunteer?

One year ago I wrote this post, when things were normal. I’d love to volunteer now in my new town. I think it would be a great way to meet people and feel like I’m contributing in some small way. Hopefully, I’ll be able to jump back into the pool and find a Masters team as well. One year ago at the beginning of February we had one known case of COVID in my hometown of Snohomish, WA. We had no idea what the year ahead would be like. Here’s to getting back to normal!

 

Long course at the Palm Springs pool.

I’m really missing our gorgeous Palm Springs pool, my swim friends — and long course.

I gave up part of my day to volunteer at the Piranhas Masters meet. I was too chicken to sign up to swim. I haven’t done a meet since pre-knee and eye surgery.

I took on a new writing job for trade magazines in the last few months that has me chasing deadlines and sources — even through the weekends. Maybe I shouldn’t have been there and should have stayed home and worked.

But, I went and feel so good about helping out, cheering on my teammates and friends.

Two things that stood out today:

The first heat I timed, my lane had a 98-year-old woman, who needed help to get on the blocks, who dove in and swam a 200 free. I said to my teammate and friend sitting next to me, “What was my excuse again for not swimming?”

Then there was the 20-something-old autistic young man who doesn’t function well in day-to-day life. I watched as he got up on the blocks, dove in, swam amazing underwaters, gorgeous strokes and won events with personal bests. His friend and coach told me he’s part of the US Paralympic Team. Although he doesn’t function in the “real world” he gets the pool. It was beautiful to watch. The support he got from his competitors was amazing, too. Everyone was on his team.

Volunteering was exactly the medicine I needed to feel fulfilled, connect with my community and get away from the stress of deadlines.

I recently read about the benefits of volunteering from several articles. Here’s one I read called “Volunteering and its Surprising Benefits” from a website called Help Guide: Your Trusted Guide to Mental Health & Wellness. Here’s the link and an excerpt:

Volunteering can help you make friends, learn new skills, advance your career, and even feel happier and healthier. Learn how to find the right fit.

Why volunteer?

With busy lives, it can be hard to find time to volunteer. However, the benefits of volunteering can be enormous. Volunteering offers vital help to people in need, worthwhile causes, and the community, but the benefits can be even greater for you, the volunteer. The right match can help you to find friends, connect with the community, learn new skills, and even advance your career.

Giving to others can also help protect your mental and physical health. It can reduce stress, combat depression, keep you mentally stimulated, and provide a sense of purpose. While it’s true that the more you volunteer, the more benefits you’ll experience, volunteering doesn’t have to involve a long-term commitment or take a huge amount of time out of your busy day. Giving in even simple ways can help those in need and improve your health and happiness.

Benefits of volunteering: 4 ways to feel healthier and happier

  1. Volunteering connects you to others

  2. Volunteering is good for your mind and body

  3. Volunteering can advance your career

  4. Volunteering brings fun and fulfillment to your life

    US Masters swim race

    Sights from the Masters swim meet.

    Where do you volunteer in your community and what do you enjoy most about it? Are you able to volunteer during COVID?

Who Knew? BINGO Is Good for You!

Selfie of Mom and me playing BINGO.

Selfie of Mom and me playing BINGO.

For six years, my daughter and I volunteered through a mother-daughter service organization. We had a dozen places throughout our community where we could volunteer together—from 7th grade through her senior year of high school.

Some of the philanthropies we helped out were Guide Dogs of the Desert, Angel View Crippled Children’s Homes, our swim team and the Braille Institute. We were required by the service organization—National Charity League—to put in a minimum number of volunteer hours per year.

One of the funnest and easiest things we’d do is show up at a nursing home and play BINGO with the elderly residents.

imagesI never thought much of it. It was something we’d do occasionally on a Monday night. My daughter would show up with her hair wet from swim practice wearing a t-shirt and shorts. On a big night a half-dozen other girls and their moms would volunteer to get out BINGO cards, the cage and set up seven or eight tables for the residents.

The girls would cruise the hallways and peak into rooms and ask if the residents wanted to join us for BINGO. The regulars would be waiting for us in their wheelchairs for their weekly game.

How did BINGO become so popular? Who invented the game? Here’s a link to a brief history of BINGO.

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I thought about what a difference it makes to the residents of that nursing home to have these young women escort them to BINGO. I never thought about it until last week—after visiting my mom in her assisted living home.

I took my Mom to BINGO for the second time this year. She’s had a blast both times. It got her out of her room. It engaged her mind. We had fun. She said “BINGO!” and won the first round. She had a smile on her face. She was excited to pick out prizes. She was interacting with other residents. Both times she’s promised to go back. But she never does. She’ll be sitting in her room again on Sunday at 1:15 p.m. in the dark, when she could be having another fun 45 minutes of stimulating her mind and getting exercise by walking down the hall and back using her walker. 

I wish they had a group of young ladies that would peak into her room and plead for her to go.

My mom after winning at BINGO. She wanted a fresh glass of water, because

My mom after winning at BINGO. She wanted a fresh glass of water, because “winning makes her thirsty!”

When my daughter was pushing a complete stranger in his wheelchair into the game room on a random Monday night with NCL, I had no idea how much it meant. Not only for my daughter—to learn compassion and think outside of her own immediate needs and desires—but also how much it meant to that elderly person. To get out, interact with people and have a little fun.

I wish we didn’t live two states away. I miss my mom. It was so good to see her so happy playing BINGO.

Here’s another article about how BINGO and the intellectual benefits for elderly.