International Volunteer Day falls on 5 December each year; a day established by the United Nations to raise awareness of all that volunteers add to our economic and social development, at every level in the global community.
Did you know that your “attitude of gratitude” which has led you to volunteer is adding to your health and wellbeing; whether it’s in collecting for a worthwhile cause, giving your time and expertise in community service organisations like Surf Life Saving Australia, working on school P&Cs or for Meals on Wheels or church-based community organisations?
Scientists have been accumulating considerable evidence that verifies what spiritual thinkers have long affirmed: “a grateful heart” that is ready to be of service is beneficial to our health.
The International Journal of Person Centered Medicine published a study which examined fifty investigations into the health benefits experienced by individuals who act sincerely to help others. The evidence included studies on benefits such as recovery from alcoholism, addiction, and depression; on coping with severe diagnoses and dying; longevity; in neurology, endocrinology and immunology; and on self-reported happiness and the “helper’s high” in relation to volunteerism and community service.
The evidence as to the effects of gratitude and service on health and wellbeing is so powerful that the report recommends that healthcare professionals prescribe volunteering to their patients.
But what if your need is simply to obtain employment so that you can keep a roof over your head and put food on the table for your family? Understandably, you feel you first need to get a job before considering the benefits of volunteering.
Today’s media reported that hundreds of thousands of individuals are facing this dilemma right now, along with the thousands of tertiary and secondary school graduates who have yet to find their niche.
However, the research into the benefits of volunteering can help the job seeker, too.
Thinking about our basic need to have meaningful employment, have you ever thought about “service” as a definition of “employment”?
A colleague discovered its importance when he was retrenched. He was a senior executive in a big corporation who had children in private schools, a new house in the process of being built and numerous other financial commitments … and he was the only breadwinner.
With all his contacts and his good reputation he figured that he’d be back at work in no time, but despite doing all the right things, like sending out his resume and making hundreds of phone calls to prospective employers nothing developed.
Although increasingly numbed by fear of the consequences for his family, he eventually realised that he needed to change his thinking.
He had to stop arguing for failure, unemployment and depression.
He took a stand with this statement from a book that links our thoughts with our wellbeing as his focus, “Divine Love always has met and always will meet every human need.” (Science and Health, Mary Baker Eddy)
Although there seemed little evidence of this Love and care in his seemingly desperate human need, he decided to think about his circumstances as an opportunity … to be of service and to use his talents to help others, instead of fixating on his problem.
He volunteered to do any handyman work that his neighbours needed, and in time was earning a small income mowing lawns and doing minor carpentry work that kept him busy from morning till night.
His “helper’s high” meant that he now had a reason to face each day and soon the dread of unemployment began to recede. Of course he kept looking for work in his chosen field and eventually he got a phone call asking him to take a position back in that field.
His humble, caring and positive attitude expressed the type of love that will always unites us with the divine power that governs the universe, and on this occasion it did indeed meet his human need.
My experience, too, is that you can expect lots of changes for the better when you take the time to learn more about divine Love, identified in many religions but explained so clearly in the book Science and Health, and embrace that loving practice in your everyday life.
This article was published on 25 APN websites including the Sunshine Coast Daily, Toowoomba Chronicle, Bundaberg NewsMail, Fraser Coast Chronicle, Gympie Times, Gladstone Observer, Tweed Daily News, Lismore Northern Star, Grafton Daily Examiner, Warwick Daily News and Ipswich Queensland Times.