Fear Conquering & Volunteering

Fear Conquering with Veronica!

What is it that makes us feel so passionate about life when we are helping others?

There must be something more to volunteering than the oft said “it makes us feel good to do good.”

I believe it goes deeper.

When the chicks fly the coop we lose the built-in community that comes with raising a brood.

Gone are the sports team gatherings, the school plays and scout meetings.

Entire peer groups disappear overnight.

The phone calls requesting help sewing costumes, baking cookies and manning the snack shack come to a screeching halt. It can get kind of lonely.

How Volunteering Can Change Every Empty Nester's Life!

Suddenly, we have to expend extra effort to reconnect. We have to reassess our passions and how we wish to channel them.

Those endless hours we spent wiping butts, drilling vocabulary words, and staying awake past curfew cry out to be filled by some significant new endeavors.

I believe that it is vitally important that we do so.

Rebuilding Together is a great way to help seniors in your community
Helping Seniors in your community is a great way to connect!
Click here to find out how you can help

We need to become fearless.

We tried to instill in our children that volunteering was vital — and, boy, did we beam when we saw The Spawn connect to something outside of the family in a meaningful way.

But with all the distractions of parenthood, I personally found it increasingly difficult to find the time to make the world a better place.

My first foray into volunteerism as a mommy was with a parent helpline. My kids were very young and I felt the need to help others with small children.

But as any mother of two toddlers can attest, eloquently conversing on the phone is out of the question. The last thing I wanted to do was subject a parent in crisis to my screaming rug rats. With this in mind I took the middle-of-the-night shift.

After attending classes, I was ready to take my first call. Or at least the helpline people thought I was ready.

Delivering school supplies to a jungle school in Costa Rica
In Costa Rica, we were honored to pack supplies for children
learning in a jungle school.
Click here to find out how you can too!

In reality, I was terrified.

It wasn’t that I didn’t feel sufficiently trained or that I wasn’t up to the task — it was my “What If…” gene kicking into high gear.

What if I don’t wake up if the phone rings? What if somebody calls with a problem not covered in the handbook? What if I was in the middle of a pizza dream?

My fears disappeared with the first call. Most of the parents simply needed a sympathetic ear with someone who could relate.

Someone with the proper resources printed on a sheet and a calm demeanor. It was extremely rewarding and well worth the loss of sleep.

Heck, I was young and energetic.

In Africa, we taught English at a primary school
In Africa, we taught English in a primary school.
Click here to find out how you can too!

When the kids became older, their passions became mine.

As family head-cheerleader, I found myself as a volunteer public relations officer (frantically writing and sending faxes from work), drama mama, car pool manager, and costume gluer.

(The needle was snatched from my trembling hamfist by the ballet company the first time I botched a tutu – which coincidentally was the first time I ever touched a tutu.)

Thing is, I learned that volunteers don’t have to be perfect – just willing to jump in and be passionate.

Meanwhile, David became Volunteer Coach Extraordinaire — mentoring The Boy‘s teams from elementary school until the big dogs took over in high school.

Let me tell you, coaching middle school should earn anyone triple brownie points and a purple heart.

I still catch him proudly surfing the ‘net looking up stats on his former players’ careers. He’s got a few guys playing college ball on scholarship — something he’s extremely proud of.

Kids Saving the Rainforest
Shelters, zoos, and refuges are great places for animal lovers
to help out. This one was started by two little girls!

Even though I was itching to get out into the larger world, I realized that raising children was community service in its own right.

If I got them to adulthood without being total losers, they could change the world for the better.

When the built-in volunteering opportunities fly the coop, many empty nesters find themselves out of touch. Volunteering is a great way to get back out there — it’s nourishing AND builds character, even at our age.

When our nest first emptied, we found ourselves in a new town, in a state we had never lived in — we knew absolutely no one.

Being political animals, we joined a hotly contested campaign.

There is always a way to make yourself useful in a campaign — answering phones, errand running, making coffee, assembling signs, knocking on doors, entering information on computers, and on and on.

Meet Kay! She & her husband volunteer at National Parks
– check out how easy it is to help out AND see the USA!

Because I am a big talker, I opted to knock on doors.

That first knock was really scary.

The “What Ifs…” were buzzing out of control as I tiptoed up the front walk.

What if someone yells at me? What if I say something wrong? What if I have spinach in my teeth?

Again, I wasn’t sent out unprepared. Nobody ever yelled at me, nobody was even rude. The worst that happened was people refused to answer the door — something I’ve done myself — sometimes I’m just too busy. And I gained a new experience – now I know how Jehovah’s Witnesses feel!

Campaigns are a wonderful way to meet people with a similar outlook on life. I highly recommend it. Not only did we help put a first-rate individual in office, we soon had more friends than we knew what to do with.

We found ourselves being invited to restaurants, game nights, concerts and all those wonderful things that tie a person to a community.

Volunteer on a cruise ship!
We helped replant the rainforest and bring clean water
the Dominican Republic – on a cruise!
You can too – click here.

Volunteer possibilities are truly endless.

Passionate about pets? Help out at a shelter.

Love a good book? Your library needs you.

Become a Big Brother, lend a hand backstage at a community theater, tutor a child.

Do you quilt? A friend of mine just told me about a group that quilts for soldiers.

Wanna get really crazy?

Go help build houses abroad, replant the rainforest, teach schoolchildren in Africa, fix up homes for seniors in your community, or work in the gift shop at a National Park. If you are a traveler, you can always Pack for a Purpose.

Every one of these endeavors is going to expand your horizons, I promise. You will make new friends, have great conversations and feel really good about yourself.

And you’ll be doing something noble while you’re at it.

Veronica, GypsyNester.com

YOUR TURN: Let’s brainstorm some ideas for volunteering to help out our fellow GypsyNesters! Where have you volunteered? Was it a good experience? Do you have other ideas for volunteering in the community?

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30 thoughts on “Fear Conquering & Volunteering”

  1. May I recommend CASA (court appointed special advocate) as a volunteer opportunity for folks that would like to advocate for a child in the foster care community? Most states have a chapter and provide 30 hours of training before discussing an assignment to a case. One year commitment is required, and the hours are flexible!

  2. This is an EXCELLENT post! We have 4 kids…this year we had 2 leave for college and we have 2 boys starting high school this fall. I was a wreck a few years ago thinking “WHAT the heck am I going to do when the kids leave???” I home educated all my kids and I think that added to my anxiety. They were always with me. We raised them to be super independent so I was not worried about THEM at all. We WANTED them to go…and build a life for themselves! BUT me???? AHHH! So this year has been better…I calmed down, started a website, and next week I am off to the Red Cross volunteer meeting in our town. The hubby and I were young when we had our kids…we still have a LOT of life left and we want to experience it to the fullest when the last 2 leave in 4 years. You both have encouraged me SO much…YES! There is life after kids!
    ENJOY your day…

    1. OH! I forgot to mention…my kids have been volunteering for years! Mostly at the library in our small town but also the 3 boys were/are VERY involved in Scouts! It is awesome to “pay it forward”!

  3. My youngest graduated from High School this past June, and I am so glad to be done with the whole public education thing. I have volunteered most of my life, and it was very rewarding. However, I have seen my friends go right back into volu
    nteering when they are empty nesters, but do the kids really ever leave?, and lose an essential part of themselves. It seems they don’t take the time to figure who they are again. Thus I recommend a year off. I am pursuing yoga, working part-time, and enjoying doing things with “just” my husand again. It is indeed an exciting>yet scary time, but it ain’t gonna get any easier. I am excited about breaking old ties, and forming new ones…so to speak. It is rather fun being “shelfish” again. I have even gone back to the local junior college and taken some PE and language classes. It is great being around the 20 somethings. It inspires me to remember how many dreams I had (and still have), and how much I did. I wasn’t the lazy student I thought. LOL! Volunteering is wonderful, but don’t lose yourself in the pursuit to be busy.

  4. I’ve volunteered at The VA nursing home in Arizona, Packages from Home which sends care packages to acive duty military, schools for years and my kids sports teams when they were younger. I wish I could volunteer for a living!! Nursing homes really are so rewarding and fun. I have long since overcome my fear of againg and alzheimers.

  5. Consider your local Boys and Girls Club – most cities have them – we use volunteers in a way that they feel they can be most helpful – from organizing craft projects, tutoring, mentoring, helping reception or just playing games with the kids and whatever your interested in ( Phelps is currently involved in a program to teach kids to swim ). These are kids that simply need positive adults in their lives so there is no way to go wrong!

  6. Many years ago I was married to an alcoholic. I lost my self-esteem, my personal boundaries, my identity, 2 houses, 2 cars, and set a horrible example of yelling, screaming, and crying for my first child before that marriage ended. I had no understanding of alcoholism and its effects on the family. Today, I have 9 years in Al-Anon, an organization that helps the families and friends of alcoholics. I volunteer to take crisis calls in the middle of the night, sponsor 7 women, and represent my group at the Area level as well as represent the Area as a Public Outreach coordinator for the east side of our state. My youngest (from second marriage) just went off to college with lots of relationship tools and leaving me with still plenty to do for others. In this post I am not officially speaking for Al-Anon (it is an organization that protects the anonymity of its members); I choose to personally share my experience, strength and hope to help others when I see the need.

    1. Thank you for such a heartfelt share. It’s so impressive that you have chosen to take a difficult time of your life and turn it into something positive for others. I’m certain that your willingness to share your experiences has touched many. Thanks for all that you do. -Veronica

  7. I volunteer at my local hospital for the past 8 years.
    I love it because there is no shortage of duties and areas to help out there. They have a wide variety of volunteer opportunities for everyone’s talents and skills sets. They also offer free computer courses and some training workshops several times a year. The best part is that everyone who works at the hospital are so nice and thankful for my efforts. It is so nice to go to a place twice a week where the people are really happy to see me.

    Love my volunteer work.
    Truly, Janice in Canada

  8. Every Thursday you will find me making salads at the Homeless Shelter in my county. The face of homelessness does not really discriminate, and if you were to line up a random group of people, No one could really tell who lives at the shelter. Whether working with kids, GED classes, working in the kitchen or doing bulletin boards. I always feel like it was worth my time. Totally recommended. Hope you are well.

    1. Thank you for sharing your experience – wow! I do have a few questions, if you don’t mind: How has working with the homeless changed your outlook in life? Did you have a completely different view of homelessness prior to your volunteering experience?

  9. Thanks for this fantastic post. One of the benefits for us (Baby Boomers) and for society is that some of us are now blessed with more time and (energy?) to give back. Moreover, as your post and these comments show, “giving back” isn’t a one thing fits all proposition.

    1. Absolutely. It’s important for all of us to remember that everyone comes into volunteering with different passions. Sometimes a person’s passion doesn’t line up completely with a non-profit’s vision. I’ve personally found that to be true in my experience. It may take a person a few tries to find that perfect position where they feel the most helpful. Thank you so much for bringing this up – it’s a great point!

  10. Hospitals and Cancer Centers also Always Need Help. But You have to be a very Strong and Compassionate person to Volunteer at these places. 🙂

  11. Hi Guys…. I keep seeing myself everywhere!!! I guess this is my 15 minutes of fame.
    Safe travels and perhaps we’ll meet up at another refuge one day.
    Kay Markle, Volunteer

  12. Great post! I totally agree about the power of a volunteer – it’s amazing for others and does us good too! My husband and I sang in a worship team and a choir for YEARS as volunteers and helped in MANY things concerning our children over the years too – LOVED it! Now that we are almost empty nesters – we have found a way to connect at our small church and have a small group that meet in our home every week. It’s good to invest in others for sure!

  13. Mr. Bruce volunteers are CoxHealth, in fact,he is Pres. Elect for the auxiliary. Hospital volunteers are the best, lots of interesting assignments to do.

    Being home most of the time, I found that they are many people online who needs a bit of cheering up or someone to listen. That is what I do best, especially these days. No one cares if I can’t walk or do physically stuff.

  14. What a beautiful blog post, and it comes at a time when my first child is leaving for college. You made me realize I love the craziness of my life, work, and connections…but things will always change, ride the wave, and create something new! BRAVO!

  15. Five years ago after the kids had flown, I left my corporate job. I was hoping to finally do that “worthwhile” thing I’d been wanting to do–work in a non-profit, volunteer more, create art, do some gardening. It didn’t work out that way. The parents both became very ill at nearly the same time, and then the economy slid south like a mudslide! One day, I was complaining to my youngest about how things weren’t going the way I had planned, and she oh-so-wisely said, “but Mom, you ARE volunteering. You’re just taking care of your parents, instead of helping someone else.” Life doesn’t always go in exactly the direction you want, but in some weird way I can rationalize this. Veronica, I will keep dreaming of that volunteer work and of making good somewhere, someday, outside my family! Thanks for the nudge.

  16. Agree wholeheartedly with your views on volunteerism, but . . . while reading, something else caught my eye. The picture link to huge things. I, of course, recognized the giant musky as I live only 40 minutes from it’s location. Please tell me you didn’t take that photo, rather you culled it off the web and have yet to visit the big fish wonder. And when you do, LET ME KNOW, we’ll have lunch at the Angler’s Bar!

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