Volunteer service is all the rage in certain educational circles these days, for good reason. Few activities combine the doing absolute good in the world with the chance to make genuine human, cultural, and even political connections. The difficulty is often in finding a particular service activity that suits the inclinations and personality of the person doing the service, and there always exists in many kinds of service activities the possibility that the doer may so represent the service as to seem condescending or even insulting to the recipient. Gone are the days of noblesse oblige, when it was acceptable for the affluent of the world to find it in their heart and their schedule to take pity on others and perform some sort of charitable service. While the world’s needs have not diminished, our understanding of the dignity of all people requires that service in our time involve real sophistication.
The suggestions in the SERVICE AND HELPING OTHERS category certainly encompass traditional “soup kitchen” service opportunities, but it is our hope that such activities would be seen as a starting point from which young people can explore their own interests to discover the places where their strengths and proclivities can truly contribute to fulfilling the needs of others—including the planet itself.
It must be pointed out that many service venues have strict age limits or other restrictions on who can perform what sorts of service. These activities may require an extra measure of adult guidance in helping to find appropriate and rewarding service work.
IDEA #5. There are thousands of agencies and organizations seeking volunteers—find some by
–Going to a local town or city hall or community center or library; ask someone, read the posters on the bulletin boards
—Checking out volunteer needs at a place of worship
—Asking friends and family members
—Go on line and search under “volunteer opportunities [yourtown]”
Of all the suggested activities in this book, this may require the least explanation. The world is full of need, and most often this need is well advertised, if one knows where to look.
It is likely that there is a community or neighborhood organization that serves if not as a clearinghouse for volunteer opportunities, as a bulletin board. Try the town hall, a library, a post office notice board, a public school guidance office. Expect minimum age limits and particular needs—a driver’s license, for example—but be persistent.
If political institutions yield nothing useful, try other community organizations, in particular churches, temples, or mosques. Many of these maintain their own service programs that might be looking for more help, and if not, someone at such a place may have other leads.
When all else fails, look close to home: Are there specific needs that can be seen in the neighborhood that a young person could begin to meet on his or her own initiative?
And if the technology is available, try an Internet search for “volunteers needed” situations, focusing on your area. The search may need some refining, but stay with it.
If the idea of service does indeed make the youngster smile, keep looking. Something is sure to turn up.