A picture of female hands holding a pink tropical flower

To offer kindness to others, to extend a hand, is a natural inclination tied to our humanity. And it’s easy to nurture.

There are many benefits to the volunteer in service beyond the simple pleasures of helping others. Volunteering allows for connection in a vulnerable and honest setting. In coming together with groups of people outside your daily routine, there is an opportunity for genuine human connection.

Volunteering allows for connection in a vulnerable and honest setting.

People have the opportunity to be seen for their humanity rather than their exterior or their social status, and it breaks down any barriers to connection. Sharing in that connection and reveling in the mutuality of the moment offers the chance to broaden your lens and level your gaze.

Sharing in someone’s life does more than offer a new perspective. It’s a simple form of human connection. I volunteered at a local community center, teaching English to children and adults who were ESL students. Sharing my knowledge felt like an easy way to seize and take advantage of the opportunity to serve.

Volunteerism offered a wealth of benefits. I was able to utilize my access to education. I was able to share something important to me, my education and English proficiency. I was also able to teach a language that is necessary in everyday life and the workplace. Volunteering allowed me to help others utilize their skills and access their potential.

Volunteering allowed me to help others utilize their skills and access their potential.

When I was 18, I volunteered at a resettlement center for refugees. The refugees I came to know there were some of the most skilled people I had ever met. There was a French professor of ethnic studies, a dentist who once ran his own practice and a resilient mother of four who raised her children in resettlement camps. Getting to know this group of people changed my perspective on refugees. I learned about other peoples’ circumstances that I could have never before understood because of my limited perspective.

In my volunteer role, I helped adults with job placement and assimilation into U.S. society. We practiced things like taking the bus and applying for jobs. They often took jobs they were overqualified for. The professor took a job as a nighttime security guard. The dentist applied for a job as a sanitary worker, and the mother applied to wash dishes at a local fast-food chain.

I walked away from this volunteer role changed forever. I gained a view of what life looks like for someone without the same access, without the same opportunity. I gained perspective. I gained insight. I gained friends.

I gained perspective. I gained insight. I gained friends.

When you encounter another person face to face—everything is humanized. My experience has changed how I view volunteering. The work has become less about what I can offer and more about the relationship and the connection that I can build with others.

Image via Chaunté Vaughn, Darling Issue No. 12

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