For the past few months, I’ve been volunteering regularly on projects around the city through New York Cares. The projects vary from week to week, but my feeling as I leave each session is the same. I could say I feel “elated” and “energized,” but the feeling is far more complex. Perhaps it won’t come as a surprise, then, when I say I’m addicted to volunteering.
Of course, like any junkie coming off a fix, I sometimes come down off these highs to face a gray and bleak-looking world. This has got me thinking. What happens when we give to the world, but the world isn’t in the mood to give back to us? When is it OUR turn? What happens when our friends, family or spouse fall short?
One of the reasons I think I get such a charge from my volunteer work is that I have no expectations. I know only the basics – the nature of the project, where and what time it meets, and the general age group I’ll be helping. I generally don’t know any of the other volunteers or the team leader, or how advanced (or basic) the skills of my “tutees” will be. I’m there to listen, assess needs and try to help as best as I can. I’m simply Joana – and that’s good enough for the people I’m helping. And for those brief two hour segments of time, that’s good enough for me, too!
What if we approached the relationships in our lives with no expectations? What if we did more listening and less talking? What if we accepted that we are good simply because we exist and are trying to do our best? Would it feel so necessary, then, that others recognize our accomplishments? Or that we felt understood?
Perhaps, then, the world could continue being just the world, and we could exist peacefully alongside it.
If you’d like to weigh in, please do. I’m listening.