One of my 30 Before Thirty goals was to volunteer. Volunteering is one of those things that sounds great and important, but can be easily forgotten with a few quick excuses. Here's a list of excuses that I used for a while:
- I'm too busy. I simply don't have the time.
- I can't make a big commitment with a job and a family and a home to keep.
- I can't get childcare.
Turns out those were all pretty lame excuses. I found a place to volunteer that was extremely flexible, zero long term commitment, and I can bring my toddler! Even better, it is a cause I feel deeply connected to.
For the past few months, Jude and I have been dropping in (I've been aiming for one Friday a month) to help at the Harvest for the Hungry. It is a beautiful organic garden run by wonderful volunteers that provides a bounty of organic produce to food banks and shelters in our area. I believe so strongly that everyone deserves fresh healthy food, and now I'm doing something to make that happen. It is a wonderful feeling. What's even better: I am teaching my son that he can use his own two hands to make the world a better place. We weed and water and harvest, it takes us a little longer than the other volunteers, but we are helping. And having fun.
Tips for Volunteering with Small Children
1. Find a cause you are passionate about. Your time is valuable, don't volunteer for volunteering's sake. You will get so much joy from giving your time if the cause is something you care about. VolunteerMatch and a good old google search are good places to start.
2. Look for something flexible. Places with drop-in hours or single day events (like beach/creek/trail clean ups or neighborhood improvement/tree planting days) are low commitment. Another cool idea is visiting an assisted living facility, toddlers have a knack for bringing smiles to the elderly.
3. Just go for it. Most of the time, the hardest part of trying something new is starting. Go into it with an open mind and realistic expectations. Toddlers can be difficult to wrangle. You might have to take lots of breaks, or leave early. But then again, they might just surprise you and happily pick tomatoes and stack zucchini for hours.
Do you volunteer with your little one? Please share your tips and experiences in the comments.