#10 on my 30 before 30 list (about 2 months to go on that…) is an important to me. I’ve always enjoyed volunteering and giving some time to the community/various organizations, but I’ve mostly just done random projects. Jumping in on Community Bucket events when I can and random events through church. I also organize service projects for my alumni chapter every 4-6 weeks with various organizations. But I wanted to focus on one thing to devote some regular time and challenge myself to commit. A weekly or even bi-weekly commitment is no joke. It may sound easy, but once you get started it can be a struggle to keep it up.
I’ll admit that my first attempt was a fail. Well, ok maybe ‘fail’ is a strong word, as I did commit regular time to the local Ronald McDonald House helping on a weeknight for a few months. But life got in the way and it was too easy to ‘take a break’. They are, by the way, a great organization to volunteer with – times are flexible, they have lots of different needs to help with (group and individual), and you can manage it all online. We still do group dinners throughout the year, but the individual commitment was harder to keep.
I was sitting in church one Sunday reading the bulletin and there was a blurb about the need for one-on-one buddies in the kids program. I had definitely been struggling with the desire to get more involved at church but knew that it would be a significant commitment. Sundays were for sleeping in a little later to attend the 11 o’clock service or driving back from a football weekend in Nashville or early bike rides before the paths were crowded. But it just felt like a great fit. I had been a one-on-one camp counselor and missed working with kids. I knew leading/teaching a whole group wasn’t necessarily my gift, but one-on-one with a kid within a group sounded pretty awesome. And I had no idea that was even an option!
So I emailed the director and a group of us showed up one morning to observe UpStreet and learn more about being a buddy. UpStreet is what many know as Sunday School, but SO much better. Although I was pretty involved in church growing up, Sunday School was nothing like UpStreet. It is so well run and fun. There are small groups for relationship building and deeper chats and large group for fun worship and lessons. So in November I started hanging out with a Kindergarten small group and have not regretted it since. It has been an amazing experience. These kids are funny and crazy and honest and sweet. I’m a one-on-one buddy but also get to know the other kids and can step in to help lead when needed. It’s the best deal possible! And we just moved up to first grade, so getting to watch these kids grow up, even in just one year is pretty cool! Now I can only hope to make a difference to even just one of these kiddos ha.
I’d say deciding to volunteer with UpStreet was the best decision of my past year and I’d encourage everyone to consider what your skills are and where you could be helpful in your own community – whatever you consider your ‘community’ to be – in your city/neighborhood, church, alumni group, or something you’re passionate about. You may just get more out of it than those you are helping/working with.