A Volunteer Memory to Last All Year

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You are, no doubt, expecting to spend the next three minutes reading about how you should, in this season of thanks and giving, find time to volunteer to help those less fortunate. And, yes, that is one of my themes today.

But I also want to suggest something today that - I hope - will help you be a more empathetic and consistent volunteer throughout the year. Because the needs of people who rely on volunteer efforts do not ebb and flow with the seasons: The people and their needs exist year round.

Around the holidays we often feel a rush of pity or sympathy for the less fortunate and we sign up to volunteer for a day or two. We help people, we see their gratitude, we feel good and we invariably slide back to our busy, distracted lives, allowing the memory of our day of service to fade.

So my suggestion: This year bring your digital camera or smart phone to wherever you will volunteer - the shelter, on your rounds delivering meals, etc. - and take a picture (with his or her permission) of one person you help. Learn as much as you can about that person: where he grew up and the games he played as a kid, what subjects she liked in school and her hopes and dreams as a child, maybe a remembrance of a first date or a proud moment way back when.

After the rush of the holidays use that photo and that person's story to motivate you to keep volunteering throughout the year. Because everyone - everyone - was once a tiny baby, with all the promise that new life holds, and everyone was once a child, full of playfulness and freewheeling dreams. Circumstances darkened some of those dreams before others and, yes, many people need the kindness of others today due entirely to their own decisions earlier in life.

But the point is that those needs are constant. Together we can all help feed, clothe and lift the spirits of those less fortunate than us, during the holidays and all year long. Need a volunteer idea? Visit Create The Good!

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