Volunteering can have positive effects on your personal life, as well as your work life.
Once a week, I participate in an ongoing volunteer project as an after-school reading buddy. Created by JCY Westchester Community Partners , a charitable organization based in Yonkers, our reading buddy group consists of 10 or so volunteers who meet with kids at 3:00 pm in a nearby public library to help them improve their reading skills.
Many of the kids in the group are from impoverished areas, and for a lot of them, the group volunteers are the only adults other than a teacher that they know in a positive context. The other volunteers and I engage our buddies and establish a friendly relationship with them by asking about their lives – and listening to their responses.
Typically I'll have my kid read to me and I help him when he runs into trouble. Sometimes when he gives up entirely I read a little, or we play a game, until he decides to try again.
Some of the kids are better able to focus when it's time to read than others. My particular kid has difficulty sitting and reading for very long. Sometimes I have to bargain with him: “If you read one book, then we can play a game of cards for a few minutes. If you want to play another game, you have to read another book.”
I came to learn that my kid is probably the hardest-to-reach kid in the group, and even though I was given the opportunity to help a different kid, I didn't want to switch. I believe the consistency is important for my kid, and at least some of the time, we are able to complete some reading work.
I don't know if it's old age or what, but I feel it's time to give back to the community. It also feels good because you're doing something good. You're helping somebody, and you're also getting out of your routine a little bit. I think it's refreshing to do that, especially during the work day. It can become a time crunch, and sometimes I regret having to leave the office in the late afternoon for an hour-and-a-half, but it's worth it.
As an added bonus, it has allowed me to get to know the other volunteers, who are uniformly lovely, generous people. I have even shared helpful legal tips with a family law attorney who is also a reading buddy. In terms of work/life balance, I might miss a gym workout, and even a meditation session, but not being a reading buddy.