Why I Volunteer
Every time I have to leave the house for a full day of meetings, I am reminded of my awe and appreciation for all the working parents out there. Especially the single working parents. I really don’t know how they do it. I left my house at 9 a.m., and got home around 3 p.m. I immediately had to walk Alton and then sit down at the computer to get some more work done, for about another hour and half.
That means nothing else got done in my house. So today I will play some catch-up on the housework that didn’t get done yesterday. I’m thankful to have the flexibility to do what I love and take care of the house, it’s just some days I wish there were two of me, or a magic wand. Kudos again to all the parents (and grandparents, aunts, uncles, older siblings, etc.) doing it all.
While I don’t have a full-time job, I do have multiple volunteer responsibilities that do keep me busy and attending meetings out of the house on a semi-regular basis. Two meetings landed both on the same day yesterday which is why I was gone so long. The first was a strategic planning meeting for the board I Chair at the Center for Independence of Individuals with Disabilities. It is a non-profit Independent Living Center whose mission is to support the independence and equality for disabled persons. We do this through offering services like independent living skills training and support, housing modification, peer support, employment benefits counseling, as well as other related programs and services.
It is hard to believe, but, at last month’s meeting, the board voted to approve my service for another three year term. I am so proud and humbled to serve. This will be my third term. It has been a great honor and opportunity to dedicate my time and leadership talents to our amazing staff, and fellow board members. As with all non-profit board work, particularly that of an active board, which we are, the task list of the goals we want to accomplish together is long. That is okay though, because ambition is a good thing. And, at the end of the day we know it is all for the betterment of our organization, and our community. Every time I learn how we have helped improve the life of a disabled person, it just makes me want to work harder, and accomplish more.
The other meeting of the day was immediately after, at Stanford Healthcare, where I serve on the NeuroScience Patient Family Advisory Council. The Neuro PFAC is comprised of neurology and neurosurgery patients who provide advocacy for patient issues and support to clinic staff, in their efforts to improve patient care delivery. I have served on the PFAC for about five years. One of the most exiting accomplishments was being part of the decision-making process for the newly constructed NeuroScience Health Center. It is a beautiful, state-of-the-art building, that I am so proud to be affiliated with. Over the course of my life as a “professional patient,” I have had to learn how to advocate for my own health care needs. Sometimes it saved my life. Anything I can do to help improve or even just support patients who may be going through things similar to my life’s experiences, is an opportunity that fuels my dedication and gives my life a great sense of purpose.
And that is how I feel about the role that volunteering has grown into my life over the past six years. For me, having a sense of purpose is very important. When I realized (after three attempts) that working full-time (for a paid 9-5) wasn’t going to be a viable life option because of my disability, I definitely went through a rough patch of figuring out what I was mean to do with my time, and more existentially, my life.
I’m so thankful that my husband and my friends were very loving and supported me through it. Slowly, over time, I got through it. Part of what helped (in that moment) was I stopped thinking long-term. I just made short goals and looked for some joy in every day. The second thing I did was just start saying “yes” to things and putting myself “out there” more. For example, the PFAC opportunity came a long because a clinical coordinator took note of my skill for advocating for myself, so she invited me to come to a PFAC meeting. I ended up being voted onto the committee even before going through Stanford’s Volunteer Services orientation!
In general, in many different experiences I’ve had in life, I have accepted that there may be (and are) things I cannot do. But I’ve never accepted (and never will) that there isn’t something I can do. I’m always looking for that something.