Make Your Mark on the World: Volunteering to Match Your Interests

Hello, readers! Hope you’ve been having a normal, safe Friday the 13th! Any stories of bad luck you’d like to share? Personally, I had an interview scheduled for today that I’ve been sweating over, but luckily it went well! I did leave my cell phone at home all day, but that’s the extent of my bad luck.

So on to our topic: Are you looking to lend your time and skills to someone in need, but have no idea how to go about it? Yesterday I began a series of posts on how to find a volunteer position with ease, and today is the second post out of four of that series. If you missed the previous post, you can take a look at it here.

I reorganized what posts will be featured when and what those posts will contain. I figured this would be a more organized and clear way to present it. You can view it at the bottom of any post in this series.

Now, onto the good stuff:

The first step to finding an organization or business that needs your help is to take note of your skill set and interests. Just keep in mind everything you are good at and everything you like – everything! Be it web designing, playing video games, winning at chess, playing baseball, writing poetry, drawing, or even gardening. You’ll be surprised at how many volunteer opportunities match even the most obscure skills and interests.  Keeping these in mind will help you to weed out volunteer positions you most likely would not enjoy.

Just an example of a few skill sets or interests that may match opportunities:

  • If you like gardening you could help clean up a local park
  • If you’re an avid blogger you could write guest blogs for other bloggers stretched for time
  • An interest in crafts can help you in a position to make holiday cards for those who need a pick-me-up

For most entry level volunteer positions (and there are a lot of them), skills are never really needed. You don’t need knowledge of building an entire house to volunteer for Habitat for Humanity!

After you realize your interests and your skill sets, try listing some general types of organizations or jobs you know of that could potentially match those interests. For example: if you have excellent teaching skills, some day care centers, libraries, and schools look for volunteer tutors to help out their students. This list will help you later when finding actual organizations and places in your area.

The second step is to realize what you, at your age, are capable of contributing! Many volunteer seekers specify the age range in which they are looking for help, but there’s always an opportunity for everyone somewhere.

  • For children, I’ve seen opportunities to decorate Easter eggs for Easter, create candy bags for other children, and even donate their old toys to those who may not receive many Christmas presents.
  • For teens there are plenty of opportunities. They can join in relays to fund research, work at concession stands, feed the homeless, clean up local parks, and even design websites and publications with the right knowledge.
  • For adults the opportunities are endless. Adults can volunteer for most entry level volunteer positions and even land higher-up volunteer positions such as administrator or volunteer coordinator for certain organizations. Those 18 and older can work at local hospices to help improve the lives of those with terminally ill patients, prep and cook Thanksgiving meals to serve the homeless, and even become a friend to the elderly by visiting them in their homes, doing a grocery run, and more.
  • Of course, there are opportunities for whole groups and families as well. Most opportunities are open to large groups and the sheer number of people helping will put a smile on anyone’s face.

Now that we’ve got some of the preliminary preparations done and over with, you’re ready to delve into the search with the basic knowledge you need to find the right opportunity for you.

Tomorrow’s post will get more in depth and help you to figure out whether you want a local or virtual opportunity and I’ll post a huge list of helpful, quality resources and websites you can use that have been helpful for me in my own search. Come back tomorrow for more!

Make Your Mark on The World series:

  1. Introduction: How to Start Volunteering Now!
  2. Beginning Your Search: Matching Your Interests << You’re here
  3. Where to Find Them? Local or Virtual?
  4. Items You May Need
  5. Other Information

I’ll be sure to link to each in the series as they are posted! Check back this week for more!

Also: If you have any questions or suggestions about volunteering or what to add to this series, feel free to comment. I’m looking to find all the information I can! Thanks a lot!

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Make Your Mark on the World: How to Start Volunteering Now!

Want to make your mark on the world? The easiest way is to do a little volunteering. Studies show sweeping positive benefits correlated to helping and giving a little bit of your time.

  • You can learn a new skill
  • Become immediately active in your community
  • Gain that sense of achievement
  • Boost career options (definitely!)
  • Find new hobbies and experiences
  • Meet plenty of new people and make new friends
  • and more

It kind of seems like an elixir of sorts, huh?

In high school, I worked at a local soup kitchen for the homeless in downtown Dayton. It was Thanksgiving day and the building was packed with those who haven’t had meals for two or three days in a row. Looking around, I could see men and women everywhere – usually with all of their belongings thrown in one plastic bag.

We brought in a huge Thanksgiving meal: turkey, gravy, fruits, chicken, desert, and more. I was to serve the food and help clean up afterward. We got mixed reactions, which was to be expected, but many were very grateful and blessed us and gave us compliments. My first day working there changed my life and taught me how grateful I should be for what I have.

You know what’s very interesting? I see many, many homeless folks stop to feed pigeons, stray cats, and dogs. There’s something very symbolic in that.

Over the next few days, I’ll feature my first series of posts that will lay before you some tips and resources that have helped me tremendously in my search for volunteer opportunities so keep checking back!

I’ve read many self-improvement blogs since I was 12. Every once in a while, one will suggest readers to volunteer to boost their outlook on life. At 12, the promise of an enriched life was enticing, but I had no idea where to begin my volunteer search. Instead of throwing you out into volunteer world with no resources in hand, I’ve decided to list some excellent resources and quality tips that will guarantee you find a volunteer opportunity that fits you.

And don’t worry, there’s bound to be an opportunity out there that fits your interest. Over the years, I’ve made and delivered Christmas cards to the elderly at a nursing home, created a simple website for an organization, served on our Mayor’s beautification committee, cleaned up a local park, and more.

Everyone can volunteer. Well – maybe not infants, but don’t think you can’t volunteer just because you’re under 18 or over 55. Many businesses and organizations are looking for help, and as long as you have the will to help, there is a spot open for you.

This series of posts will include these topics:

  1. Introduction: How to Start Volunteering Now! << You’re here
  2. Beginning Your Search: Matching Your Interests
  3. Where to Find Them? Local or Virtual?
  4. Items You May Need
  5. Other Information

I’ll be sure to link to each in the series as they are posted! Check back this week for more!

Also: If you have any questions or suggestions about volunteering or what to add to this series, feel free to comment. I’m looking to find all the information I can! Thanks a lot!

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A Deeper Motivation

My grandmother recently published a book – her second in fact. It’s being sold online and in Barnes & Noble stores all around. This is my dream! My dad would speak of her manuscripts and her many book ideas floating around for years and years. In my younger days I painted her to be a hero, and by some possible influence from her, I gained the same ability and passion for writing. I gained her creative mind.

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Death at Sunrise relates the story of the last public hanging carried out in the United States. Fiction mixes with fact as the reader follows Rainey from his beginning in Virginia to the small, rural town of Owensboro, Kentucky, in the early 1930s where his trial and hanging brought headlines from around the world.

The world around me brings many ideas to mind: a poem about loving an enemy who deeply hates, a poem about “shooting the messenger”, an art concept depicting a kiss as a bee’s brief visit to a flower… I may have all these ideas, but rarely does something motivate me enough to take on these projects, to take initiative.

Just seeing her book on my bookshelf though, with her picture on the back and with mention of my dad and even myself… I feel so inspired. I wouldn’t mind if I were not the next Dotoevsky (though the idea is enticing). I wouldn’t care if I sold one or one thousand books. As long as I’m up in the rankings with my flesh and blood, I’ll feel I’ve done well. When it comes to this dream, I’m stuck in the childish mindset: “make grandma proud!’

For some reason, though. I feel it’ll be worth it. What a bonding opportunity!

Is there something that deeply motivates you? If it’s an object of sentiment, do you keep it in plain sight?

I recently came across my 7th grade school certificates. One for doing excellent work in algebra, another for being a great office worker (twice!), one for being in drama and art club, another for being in honor roll, and more. I don’t even remember needing motivation back in 7th grade. I just did it. I acted on productive impulses with no inhibitions. What happened to that?

I want to get back to that point. I’m going to set these, along with my grandmother’s book, somewhere in my room in plain sight so I pass them every day and think:

“If she can do it, I can do it… without any inhibitions.”

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Break Time-Wasting Reading Habits

Hey, guys. I was doing some daily reading rounds online and this question popped into my head:

Do you find it hard to keep your Google Reader items under 100?

Or do you own a stack of unread books that seems to grow higher every month?

Faster reading (with the right method) can improve your comprehension rather than reduce it. Most of us, from a young age, learned to read word by word – maybe even syllable by syllable.

Well, that was fine when we were learning new words for the first time, but what about now? Our old method of reading by gliding over every single word becomes inefficient once we learn most meanings and pronunciations.

Reading walls of text was never an exciting thing for me. I am a terribly slow reader, but I was much worse a few years ago. Taking every single English class my high school offered was not the best choice in retrospect. Had I have known there existed a way to re-learn the way I read, however, I probably would have been able to read the 30 pages assigned to me every night and, in turn, get higher grades and comprehend more.

Required reading takes time, but that time can be greatly reduced by changing the way you read. If you’re a slow reader, your comprehension can diminish even during recreational reading.

To make the most of your time, be sure to avoid these poor reading habits:

1. Unclear reading background To start off, you should focus on the basic concepts of the text you’re reading. With larger texts, determining what important information should be absorbed instead of jumping right into it can be beneficial to your comprehension. When reading a novel, for example, having a grasp on the basic plot and character development will allow you to easily understand, visualize, and read through more detailed passages.

2. Reading…. word… by…. word… This is my favorite tip, and the easiest way to speed up your reading instantly! You don’t have to focus on every word and move on only when you understand it. I know a lot of you also re-read a sentence or two several times before moving on. Re-reading may allow you to understand what you’ve just read, but it does take time. When speed reading, you should focus not on individual words, but groups of words.

Your reading should flow like music. Breaking this flow make sit as hard to comprehend as breaking the flow of music. Focus on the center of a group of words, whatever can fit your vision in one eye movement, and then move on to the next group. Practice getting into a flow by running your finger along the text without stopping; sooner or later it will become instinct!

3. Verbalizing what you read Saying text out loud, hearing it in your mind, and even mouthing words while you read will decrease your speed immensely. Thinking is nonverbal and much faster than speech and physical movements. By doing this, you are wasting your brain’s processing power.

 

4. Holding the text too close This pairs up with number 2. Holding the text too close won’t let your eyes broadly sweep the page, which will break the flow!

 

5. Inattention This is a given, I would imagine, but it is a very important factor in reading speed and comprehension. It is obvious that outside distractions such as the television or your brother’s tuba practice session should be turned off or tuned out, but what if your distraction is internal?

Before you read, take a piece of paper and jot down all of your distracting thoughts. Make sure that your activities before reading were not too stimulating. Watching TV before you read could pull your focus away from your book and onto who was eliminated this week in your favorite reality show!

Try one or two or all of these changes in your reading process and see if it makes any difference. Learning to read in clumps helped me most of all. Reading is an important, needed skill we acquired in our younger and formidable years, but just like any rudimentary machine, improvements can and must be made to gain maximum efficiency!

Just a small step in improvement can benefit large portions of your life in the future.

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Saturday Sprinkles – First Edition!

For those who seem to have “run out of internet” or maybe just those who don’t have time to scour the web for little trinkets and memorable gems, I want to post a weekly “highlight reel” of sorts (every Saturday) just listing some interesting and beautiful things I have stumbled upon. I did say the blog would be sprinkled with little things here and there, so here is your first Saturday dessert!

  • Newsmap is a very nifty, and colorful treemap visualisation of recent news. If you’re more of a visual thinker or dread reading huge blocks of text in your routine news websites, give newsmap a try. It’s now one of my daily visits!
  • Julia Breckenreid is a talented, professional illustrator who has her work featured in magazines, books, posters and more. I’ve used many of her pieces as wallpaper for my desktop or even cell phone backgrounds! My kind of stuff.
  • For you LiveJournal users, the community The Indie Exchange is a large, ever-growing vault of user-uploaded indie albums and more. Popular and unpopular! I found this was really handy in looking for new music. Feel free to search through what has already been posted, discover new bands, or even contribute by uploading your own stuff. It’s member’s only, but joining is simple as pie.
  • Here’s a user-made music video of actress Audrey Tautou in the movie À la folie… pas du tout (“He Loves Me… He Loves Me Not”) with the song “Have You Forgotten” by The Red House Painters. So many of my favorite things rolled into one – how could I not post this? Watch the movie, look into the band, learn about Audrey Tautou. They’re all worth it, I promise!

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=91j8k1MApLU]

  • Lastly, Giveaway of the Day is exactly what it sounds like! Download free licensed software daily. Wondering if this is fair and legal? No worries, check out their about page to get the 411 on their “win-win” situation for both publishers and clients.

That’s it for Deliciae’s very first Saturday Sprinkles post. Every Saturday I promise my readers a list -more or less- of varied links and media just like this one!

Have a delightful weekend and don’t forget to relax.

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Don’t Pursue Happiness – Make It!

A single father of three clocking 50+ hours a day in a janitorial position rarely has time to think to himself, “Where does my happiness come from?” or maybe even simply, “Am I happy?”. He comes home every day after dealing with the drama of his co-workers and prepares for his second job: home life.

The laundry needs sorting, the carpets need vacuuming, the sink overflows with plates, cups, and soggy food, both cars need repair, and the bills need to be paid. Living paycheck-to-paycheck is inevitable and shopping is always a matter of “need” over “want” – if shopping is even an option at all.

Consider this man’s perspective on happiness. Is he waiting on a miracle, something to come along and pick his life up? Does he wait for happiness to come to him? Is there anything to be happy about in this man’s life?

A Change of Perspective

There is a secret to happiness that is as easy to practice as it sounds, a secret that should be considered common knowledge. It is the reason that this man, our single janitor father of three, is able to rest at night in complete and calm content.

Happiness is far too valuable to put off until later, so why not create happiness from your own being right here and now instead of waiting for the right conditions? Instead of putting off happiness until his next big tax refund, my father, our steadfast janitor, realized what 17th century author John Milton realized long ago,

“The mind is its own place, and in itself

can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.”

-Paradise Lost

To my surprise, not everyone practices this simple doctrine.

You may have a friend or family member who hangs their head low while walking to work, whose sighs carry more negative emotion than a funeral service, and who just appears hopeless, as if they’ll never dig their self out of their hole. Or maybe even you have your own hole from which you wish you could dig yourself out.

Instead of waiting on a rope or ladder to pull you up and out, why not just change the scenery? Change your surroundings and your mind. Redecorate your abysmal crypt and turn it into a positive paradise where you would love to be!

Why the Pursuit Doesn’t Work

Happiness has no prerequisites and no conditions which must first be met. Every human being has the power to think themselves to a better mood. Changing your thinking is the single most important thing you can do to improve your outlook – and it’s so easy! My father could spend the rest of his life chasing “if onlys”.

“If only I had my paycheck tomorrow.”

“If only I had someone here to help.”

“If only I could go back to school.”

You can pursue your desires to become a prolific writer, go back to school, or get your kids into college, but don’t hold off on happiness just until you reach your destination. Create it now. Reaching an “if only” will soon lead to another. Your happiness when reaching a goal is temporary and ever-fleeting, but if you make contentment a permanent part of your life, you’ll never have to worry about where it goes and how to get it back.

Five Keys to Self-Created Happiness

Happiness is already part of our inner self, but we need to learn how to experience that part of us that is always happy. Here are five things I feel we should all review at certain intervals in our lives in order to forget chasing happiness that won’t last and expose the permanent contentment that lies within.

  1. Smile!
    One saying that has stuck with me for years was the phrase “fake it ’til you make it!” I’ve always applied this to positive attributes and smiling is one of them. If you smile even when times are rough, you’ll feel almost an immediate positive physical and mental change. This is probably the smallest and easiest step on your journey to happiness, and maybe your next smile will be genuine.
  2. Surround yourself with what you love.
    Whether it be classic books, pumpkin pie, your children, or even your friends, you should always create a healthy environment for yourself. Being able to see and interact with the things that lighten your heart will do wonders for your life outlook over time. Be sure to maintain healthy, non-toxic relationships with the people around you. Anyone with a negative trait who gives you a feeling of uneasiness should have you rethinking who you are with.
  3. Be realistic.
    In my young life, I’ve already been up and down on the outlook scale. Pessimism and unhealthy optimism are two extremes that you should stay clear away from. Both could create bad situations for you in the long run. I recommend keeping an open mind to all situations and remembering that anything is possible – good and bad. If you are realistic about what could happen, you will not be surprised or shocked when something goes array. Some will say that optimism is a good and positive thing, and I do agree to a point. However, optimism has been known to grow to an unhealthy scale where expectations for good outcomes are unrealistically high. You don’t want to get your hopes up!
  4. Be the you that you are capable of.
    Many of us have envisioned ourselves how we want to be five, ten, or fifteen years into the future. The worst thing you can do for yourself is set a goal that is too hard to reach. Make tiny steps towards your goals and be sure that you are capable of making progress. Even if you never reach your big dream, you still know that you are doing all that you can. What more can you do than what you are capable of?
  5. Appreciate the little things.
    Take some time to breathe in the fresh morning air, notice a small flower growing in the cracks of a sidewalk, or the loving relationship between a father and son taking a walk in the park. Little things like this bring me an immense amount of joy in my every day life, and I only have to be aware of them to appreciate them. Take some time to walk around your house or your city and try to notice smaller details you would have overlooked in your daily life.

These are the most prominent keys to happiness I have found over my eighteen years of living, but there are many, many more. Remember that your happiness can also create happiness in others as well. With a simple smile or a kind gesture, the mood of a room and the hearts of others will lighten. What are your tips and tricks to happiness?

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