Volunteers make a difference; I do, so can you

I am a volunteer. I would like to say it is because I am altruistic and I'm thinking only of other people or the cause but that would not be true. I volunteer because of what I get out of it.

I volunteer because it is usually more fun to be a part of the action than just being a spectator. For example, when you collect tickets, you are contributing, get to see a large number of people (usually one of the best parts of a large gathering) and still see the event. You often get to interact with the stars even if it is just opening a door or getting water.

I volunteer because I get to meet interesting people — the other volunteers. By definition, they are the kind of people who can juggle work, family and multiple other interests. They come from a variety of backgrounds and usually cover multiple generations. Some of them are characters with really interesting experiences to share. Some are more like me making it easy to get a task done.

Finally, I volunteer because it gets me involved with the community. Moving often, I have found there are great things to do in every area but you never find them just listed in the newspaper or online. As a volunteer, someone directs you to a place and you get to participate in activities that make your community unique. And you never know what opportunities will open up — the military liaison to the Pioneer Rodeo participated in the parade on horseback — and he had never ridden before.

I understand there are many reasons people don't volunteer — takes too much time, they don't have a specific skill or they won't make a real difference. But when you show up, you will find these things don't matter. You can easily limit your participation to only a couple of hours by volunteering for just one shift or task — no one expects more. Most events simply need many hands to make the tasks lighter, and it does not take much to make a difference in one person's life — just being there verifies that people care and this knowledge sustains hope and optimism in others.

The opportunities to volunteer are endless. If you like participating with people you know, party and picnic committees are good. If you want to support those that are deploying, the Aerospace Expeditionary Force Retreats always can use support. If you like the outdoors, there are river clean-ups, trail maintenance and 10K races that need help. Special events like the rodeo and concerts need volunteers. If you have a skill or talent like quilting or carpentry, there are opportunities for you to give just what you can (Quilts of Valor, Habitat for Humanity). Start looking and you will find opportunities everywhere.

So the next time you are sitting on the couch trying to decide what rerun to watch, consider volunteering. Don't do it only for the cause, do it for yourself

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