Volunteering: The Top 6 Things You'll GET

We often equate volunteering with "giving" our time. We talk about "providing for the needy" and "giving back." We want to be selfless, and our implicit logic is that being giving is being generous, and being generous is being selfless. Sometimes though, I think such logic is confused and unhelpful. The idea that volunteering is "giving back" infers that volunteers aren't receiving anything, or, at least, that they aren't receiving as much as they are investing.

While giving back is good, it's an assumption that dilutes a more vivid understanding of the benefits of volunteering. In my experience with volunteer mentors at Friends for Youth, the trade off between giving and receiving is at least equal, and more often than not it is the adult volunteer who gets the most out of the experience of mentoring.

So instead of listing the things you might give as a volunteer mentor, I want to highlight the top six things you'll get:

6. Community. As a mentor you become friends with somebody you most likely would never have met otherwise. By becoming friends you are exposed to their community and they are exposed to yours. Like trees that grow bigger as their roots spread, the more connections we create the stronger our community becomes.

5. Oh, the things you'll learn! Has an 8 year old ever beat you at skee-ball? As a mentor this could easily happen. When you're a mentor you might get beat at a lot of things, and that's your opportunity to learn from your mentee. It's consistently impressive to see what youth are able to teach adults.

4. Oh, the things you'll forget! The adult world is unfortunately not nearly so fantastical, wonderful or hysterical as the world of youth. As a mentor you get to be removed, at least for a few hours per week, from some of the drudgery of adulthood.

3. Oh, the things you'll remember! Hanging out with a kid means remembering what it was like to be a kid. Upon revisiting your inner kid, you might find things haven't changed much.

2. Oh, the places you'll go! Mentoring with Friends for Youth is all about having fun. We help you do that in many ways, from providing you with support materials like our unique mentoring journal, to giving out free tickets to events like 49ers and SF Giants games.

1. Friendship. Let us know if you discover anything more important in life than true Friendship. At Friends for Youth we've done Friendship for more than 34 years, and we do it very well. We hope you'll join us.


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