When I was first told I would be volunteering this weekend, I agreed, mainly for two reasons. One, because my parents told me to. Two, I needed the hours for my school’s Silver Star program, and for the future. Before I tell you about what happened, let me tell you about a previous volunteer experience.
Here’s the thing with me. In unknown/new situations, I’m the type of person to be very hesitant when it comes to the moment of decision. Times when I’m in a comfortable, more known situation, I’ll be able to give an immediate answer and be able to do things without doubting myself. But when I’m not, I start questioning every action I do. For example, reaching out and doing something, including helping people. I do want to step in and ask if they need anything or offer assistance, or even just do something. But I start questioning it. I plan the scenario in my mind, but for one reason I can’t do it. I have to internally scream at myself at least ten times to just do it, before I actually do it.
When we first arrived, there was this girl who was volunteering as well, and she complimented my dad’s truck. My dad then pointed out how she easily initiated a conversation. And that’s where my anxiety kicked in. I started getting nervous about my performance and behavior at the event. Despite all the tips and conversation starter examples my parents had given me moments before, I was still panicking about how to initiate a conversation. Seeing her do it so easily made me worry even more, and put even more pressure on myself to not mess up. This mindset resonated a lot within the first 2 hours or so of the event.
There were three junior volunteers that day, including myself, and so we had decided to switch stations if necessary. One would be in charge of the popcorn, another in the wheel-spinning prizes, and the other in the bouncy house. I started at the wheel-spinning game, and awkwardly stood behind the table for some time as people came in. In all honesty, I was really bad. Yes, I would greet each family and ask how they were, but I was so…stiff. I didn’t talk with emotion or make attempts to start a conversation. I also didn’t make that much commentary or tried hyping the kids for their prizes as much. It was like I was following procedures, and not a natural behavior.
After I and the girl at the bouncy house switched, I observed what she was doing. I saw how she would actually lean down and speak to the kids, and show them what they get instead of picking it out. I saw how enthusiastic and helpful she was to the kids. Instead of standing behind a table and motioning to things, she would actually hand them out and make small talk or commentary about it. Things I didn’t do. I realized that, and tried it out as I stood near the bouncy house. Although it wasn’t much interaction, I got to talk to a few kids and have fun with them.
After our next switch, I took in what I saw the other girl do and tried interacting further again. I tried making some commentary on what they won’t, and helping them with their prizes. I also tried making more talk with the adults and asking how their day was going or complementing them. And actually, because of this, one of my favorite moments of that day was made. There were these two ladies, and when they came to me, I complimented one of them on her bag. She was so happy at that moment and thanked me, saying that was nice of me. She then asked me for my name and in return I asked for hers. After that she and the other lady both thanked me for coming out to help. That moment made me feel really good about what I was doing. It made me more confident in what I was doing,and helped push myself to try and be better in what I was doing. That small assurance really boosted my confidence in myself and what I was doing at that moment, and really made my day. There was another gentleman who had also done the same for other volunteers. He told them he had googled the definition of awesome, and the picture of the volunteers was there. It was such a nice compliment, and it really made their day.
After our final switch, the mood became more relaxed. By the end, I had dropped some of my formalities/stiff behavior and was more confident in talking and interacting. There are still a couple of things where I can improve upon, but definitely, by the end of the event, I had gotten better at interacting and helping out than before. Now, if I have to do a similar thing, most likely I will be able to have more confidence and knowledge about what I’m doing from the previous experience. Hopefully, it’ll be better as well.
Above all this, the biggest thing was volunteering. This experience has actually changed my own perspective on volunteering. Before I did this, like I said in the beginning, I only really wanted to volunteer for hours. It may be a bit selfish of me, but I had only thought of it that way. I didn’t realize what other importance volunteering had. Volunteerism is the “principle of donating time and energy for the benefit of other people in the community as a social responsibility, rather than for any financial reward.” When people volunteer, they donate time and money that can help cover events such as the open house, leaving money the department can use to buy more or better equipment.
The purpose of this open house was for the firemen and members working there to create a closer relationship with the people, especially the kids, and even influence them into being a firefighter in the future. It brings the community together, and closer.
I also want to say how I think volunteers are amazing people. Not because I’m one myself, but because of how hard they work. One of the girls I was working with had a midterm on Monday, yet she chose to come and take valuable study time to help our community. Volunteers are taking hours of their days, helping organizations and people even when they can have jam-packed schedules, all because they want to do something for their community. They work hard and interact with each other, and that really shows.
So, to sum it up. As I had my second experience with volunteering, I got to see a different side of what it is that volunteers do. I saw what volunteerism really is, and why volunteers are so important. I also got to have a better experience and interaction with my community by volunteering, and hopefully will be able to go volunteer again.