This is the third article in the series, “The 12 Healing Tools“. These articles outline the things that I have found most useful in my journey to overcome childhood trauma and abuse, drug addiction, and debilitating depression.
Once I got clean back in the mid-90s, I really didn’t know who I was or what I was going to do with my life. I grew up with an overbearing mother (to put it mildly), I had no self-esteem, spent years trying to lose myself in men and drugs, etc. etc. etc. It was a rough road for quite a number of years.
The guy that I was with at the time – we’ll call him Marty – who, incidentally met me during my active addiction and stayed with me during rehab and after, convinced me to sign up for Americorps. Honestly, I just wanted the pay out at the end to help pay off my student loans, so I agreed. During this time, Marty also gave me some other volunteer work making art with kids in some local low income housing projects. I spent a full year in Americorps, doing art with kids, making murals, sweeping streets, fixing windows, and basically just giving back to the community. Eventually Marty and I parted ways, but I have to give him credit for this cuz selfless service really changed my life and probably helped keep me clean too.
During this time, I found out what it was like to finally feel connected to other people, as best as I could at that point in my life anyway. It was nice to finally feel a little less alone and a little less misunderstood. I met people with much harder lives than my own, and they were happy. And if they weren’t happy, I felt compassion for that cuz I knew that pain too. Many of them – black people, Hispanic people, low income people – were the most ‘real’ people I had ever met. They always looked forward to us coming around and were grateful for whatever little art project or clean up we did. For one of the first times in my life, I FELT VALUED. I will always treasure those memories from my time in Americorps.
Selfless service is considered one of the highest yogas, because it brings good karma. Those of you that volunteer know that warm fuzzy feeling helping others can bring you. I like to call that “good karma fizz” cuz not only are you helping another living being, you’re also helping yourself. Apparently there are even research studies about the health benefits of volunteering: https://www.nationalservice.gov/pdf/07_0506_hbr.pdf
I still spend quite a bit of time doing volunteer activities because I STILL LIKE HOW IT MAKES ME FEEL! And I get to try out a number of different jobs without actually needing a degree to do them.
So if you’re feeling lost, alone, disconnected, or bored, check out some volunteer opportunities near you! It could literally CHANGE YOUR LIFE!