Bringing in the caboose of the Travel & Volunteer Guest Post Series is the wonderful Nora of Walkingwithnora. The internet is an amazing place that brings people into our lives that we otherwise never would have met and they often impact us without ever even meeting IRL. Nora is one of those people for me and just like the internet, volunteering brings people into our lives too, and impacts us in unexpected ways. This last post reminds us of some very important lessons that we can learn from giving of ourselves and helping others.
Years ago I found myself in a rut. My boyfriend had dumped me on New Years on our way home from Chicago, which of course meant an awkard five hour car ride. I was living with a friend who wasn’t really a friend at all. I had just started my job and made less than $24,000 a year. I was about a year post-undergrad and totally clueless as to what to do with my life or where to go from there.
So I did what I did best at the time: I wallowed. I mixed in work and working out as those two things made me happy, but I knew I needed something more.
One day I realized that I really, really, really disliked this version of myself. I was tired of being wallow-y and depressing. I wanted to put some pep back in my step so I did two things.
1. I started researching graduate schools and
2. Applied to be a Big Sister with the Big Brothers/Big Sisters of St. Louis
Both were hugely instrumental in my road to self-recovery but being a Big Sister? It lead to me so many amazing experiences I never thought I would have.
After filling out tons of paperwork (which has since been automated online), agreeing to a background check, and answering questions in a very interesting interview (the get personal with the questions, as well they should, since they are trusting us with the lives of our littles!), I was matched. My little was seven when we began our friendship, and we remained matched for almost two years, at which point she outgrew the program and sadly my time was then occupied by graduate school.
My little taught me things like how to dance, do braids in pigtails, what the latest school lingo was, and that there is nothing sweeter than a little person wanting to hold your hand! She helped me to conquer my fear of roller coasters (although I kept my eyes closed, my mouth open and I squeezed her hand hard) that go upside down, and I got her over her fear of snakes.
We made matching Build A Bears for the St. Louis Cardinals, saw cute kid movies that I wasn’t brave enough to see by myself, we had sleepovers where we made s’mores, went swimming and had “girl talk,” which usually meant she would blush and not tell me about the boys she had a crush on. We went to a circus, I saw her band performances, and we talked on the phone once a week.
On top of being a “Big,” I got involved in community services projects through BBBSMO including a habitat for humanity type group. The premise started out simple: we would help a struggling family with kids in the program to clean out and up their home. It turned into much more than that as we got electricians and plumbers donated, we had an army of 50 people who literally redid their home: everything from cleaning to painting, to getting furniture donated, to rewiring their house, to updating their plumbing, getting computers and internet for the kids to do their homework from and so much more. That project was the longest weekend (yes, one weekend!) of my life, but at the end I collapsed into bed out of sheer happiness. We helped so many people in this program and I was proud of it! I learned to be more thankful for what I do have rather than stressing about what I don’t; I learned that my heartache over my ex wasn’t nearly as serious as those children whose parents were gone due to illness or by choice; I learned that people can do good in the world and that it all it takes sometimes is a kind heart and a smile.
I’ve sinced moved on from working with BBBSMO and now do community charity work and projects via our local Rotary Chapter throughout the year for groups like Nurses for Newborns, the USO and local high schools in need. Volunteering has shown me two things: the inherent good nature of people, no matter their circumstance and that no matter what I should always be thankful for what has been bestowed upon me so far.
What’s your favorite group to volunteer/work with? How has volunteering helped you?
Bio: Engaged to Knight. Bonus Momma to 2 girls; Dog Momma to Jack. Loves wine, books, rain, Mexican food, her family and friends. Blogs at WalkingwithNora