Volunteering: A Path to Happiness

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By Sarah Barnes

Earlier this year, Miley Cyrus (yes, I’ve started my blog about happiness with a story about the controversial Miley Cyrus, hang in there with me, I have a point!) gave a homeless teen from Los Angeles the opportunity to accept her Video of the Year award at the MTV Music Awards. This action was an effort to raise awareness for My Friend’s Place, a drop-in service center that helps homeless youth get back on their feet.

Now, whether you love or hate Ms. Cyrus, what she said in a back stage interview about her actions really does explain the simplistic idea behind why volunteering your time and/or resources brings so many people around the globe a greater sense of purpose or happiness.

“I feel full. After last year at the VMAs, even though everyone talks about it, that doesn’t make you feel full. At the end of the day you lay down and you’re still the same, you’re empty and this makes you feel completely full. It’s the most [selfless] thing you could do by giving because it just feels so good.”

– Miley Cyrus

Miley’s 2013 twerking performance, which she references, was one of the most talked about acts of the year and generated her a lot of press, but like she said, no matter how popular she got or how much money she has made, this did not change the way she felt about herself or her life. Personally, I agree with Miley when it comes to volunteering. Throughout my entire life I always have volunteered in some way, shape or form whether it was Girl Scouts, at a no-kill cat shelter, with my co-ed service fraternity Alpha Phi Omega, or even into my professional career in public relations where I have the privilege of managing our community relations and donations budget.

 

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When I sit back and reflect on all those times I have had the honor of impacting other humans/animals circumstances, I find these to be my fondest memories. Those were the days I went home dead tired but feeling whole, not missing a single thing. In my opinion, this comes from the reaffirmation of everything that I personally should be thankful for.

Every day, every breath, is a gift; no one is guaranteed tomorrow, but you may have made tomorrow better for someone just by volunteering your time.

 

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One example near and dear to my heart is the opportunity I’ve had with Ainsley’s Angels this year. I was introduced to this group through my best friend whose brother, Elliot, was in a massive car wreck 15 years ago. Elliot is unable to walk on his own and lives with his mother and father here in Corpus Christi.

Earlier this year the family met a group called Ainsley’s Angels of South Texas. This organization pairs handy-capable children and adults, called Captains, with community or family members, called Angels, who run with them in donated custom racing chairs throughout the year. Feeling a breeze against their faces and going FAST alongside other runners is something most of the Angels may never have experienced otherwise. This experience helps them feel part of something most people told them they’d probably never do.

 

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Elliot and I, as well as his sister and brother in law, got the opportunity to race in the Mustache Run 5k this year. Throughout the race, I had the privilege of holding his hand and running beside him.

I had met and spent time with Elliot before at his house, but after that race day, the way I interacted with him completely changed. I no longer was unsure of what to say or do around him but felt much closer to him. Each time we took off for a race or cheered for him as we crossed the finish line, his cries of joy and excitement filled my heart with humble pride to be by his side. Even though Elliot can’t speak full sentences or relay how he is feeling sometimes, looking into his eyes, it is all there.

 

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This, my friends is why volunteering leads to happiness, not only for the people you are helping but also for yourself. You are there because you want to be, not because you have to or you are getting paid to be there. Each time I squeezed Elliot’s hand and felt the pure joy and rush of emotions he felt participating in the race with everyone else, he lit the match that made my inner light shine a little bit brighter and those empty spaces within my spirit began to fill themselves in. I wouldn’t trade these experiences for all the money, fame or possessions in the world.

In the words of Miley, I feel full.

 

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About the Author

Sarah Barnes Bio PhotoSarah was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota but grew up in Houston, Texas before attending Texas Tech University in 2006. She has traveled and lived over in Europe and continues to explore as often as her career allows. She began practicing yoga in 2010 when she moved to Corpus Christi and in 2013, the chance arose to become a certified teacher. After a life-changing 10 months, Sarah is now a 200 level RYT; she is also the Communications and PR Coordinator for Sherwin Alumina and has degrees in International Business, Photo Journalism and Spanish.

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