Have you ever thought about serving others as being a form of self-care? I hadn’t either until a few years ago when I started volunteering with my children at Memphis Union Mission. This led us to other service opportunities to serve as a family throughout the community. The more we served, the more I realized that instead of being another thing to check off my to-do list, it had become something that we looked forward to and something that brought great joy to our hearts. And that got me thinking, maybe there is something to this service over self-concept. In a previous blog post, Is Self Care Selfish? I talked about the main reasons for investing in ourselves is so we will have something left to give others. I think serving and giving to others fills us up in the same way. Every single person is born with a desire to have our needs met first. It is innate, part of our very DNA, a form of self-preservation. But as we grow up, we begin to see the benefits and blessings of doing for others; or we should. Sometimes we need a little reality check, a nudge in the serving direction, to help us realize those benefits and blessings. That is what serving at Union Mission did for me. And that is what moved me from serving out of a sense of obligation into serving from a place of joy and gratitude.
Today, January 20th, 2020, marks the 25th anniversary of The Day of Service. MLK Day is the only federal holiday designated as a national day of service to encourage all Americans to volunteer to improve their communities. Their motto is”Make it a day on not a day off” and explains the heart of the mission. It was begun as an opportunity to commemorate Dr. King’s legacy through volunteerism, something that Dr. King believed strongly in. All across the nation, people volunteer their time and talents to honor the memory of a man who gave so freely of himself.
While it may be too late for you to get involved in one of the many service projects going on around your community today, It is never too late to commit to serving. No matter your age, physical condition, or amount of time you have to give, there is somewhere for you to give back to your city. Do you have a heart for children? Volunteer to read in a local school. Or if you want to go a little deeper, with just an hour a week, you can help children all around the community strengthen and expand their reading skills with the Arise2Read program. How about our senior citizens around town? They are often an overlooked area of need. Volunteering your time in an adult daycare facility for Alzheimer’s patients such as Page Robbins Adult Daycare Center. Or MIFA’s amazing program Meals on Wheels delivering meals to those most vulnerable. If physical activity is more your style, Clean Memphis has many ongoing projects around town. Are you an animal lover? Local shelters are always looking for people to love the animals in their care. There are even opportunities for shy introverts. Little Free Library is an amazing program that shares books throughout our community via small boxes that are made to look like storefronts. Merge Memphis operates Little Free Pantries all around town modeled after the same concept as the Little Free Library. For a more comprehensive list of opportunities, go to Volunteer Odyssey
The most important thing is to just do something, No matter how much time you have to give, you can be of use to someone. If you have children, get them involved. Make it a family activity. We really were made to help our fellow man, to foster feelings of community and camaraderie by stepping in and lending a hand to those who have stumbled or fallen. I think you will find it is one of the best forms of self-care there is.