Volunteering is a choice.

There are so many things to do in one day, one week. We have to go to work, make sure there is food in the house and clean clothes in our drawers. We have to check homework, schedule piano lessons, walk the dog, make dinner, and clean up from dinner. The list never ends and those are just the basics. It’s the activities that we choose to do in our free time that really define us. What activities are important to you, to your children? Every person in the household has different priorities and the goal as a family is to find those that satisfy all of us. It might be one of the most challenging things to figure out as a family.

In my family, we don’t have too many activities that overlap. I want to go to museums and my husband prefers to watch sports on TV. My daughter is in a shopping phase while my son only wants to play basketball or Xbox. Although we try and satisfy everyone’s needs and desires it’s not always easy. Volunteering isn’t necessarily at the top of anyone’s list, but the beautiful thing about sharing an experience like volunteering is that we are working together towards a common goal. Working together, communicating and being active together always brings us closer. Whether we are packing supplies or sorting goods at a food pantry, playing games with seniors or handing out food at a soup kitchen, we have one common goal – we are helping others. Helping others feels good, builds confidence and self-esteem and in general, makes people happy.

When we plan our schedules, I make sure to have at least one volunteering experience on our calendar every month. As a family we discuss where we would like to volunteer or what new opportunity we should look for. Being fairly new to Los Angeles, I can’t say we have volunteered every month, but we are trying. And when we find an organization we love we tend to go back to reaffirm the bonds we are making with the organizers and build on the experience.

I am proud to say that my 12 year old son is very comfortable in a hospital or senior center. He is more than helpful and always willing to assist someone navigate his or her wheelchair or walker. That didn’t happen on it’s own. Volunteering and the simple act of showing up is what made my son content in these sometimes awkward settings. These are lifelong skills that I know will serve him well in his future. I hope and believe that he will continue his volunteer work throughout his lifetime and that he will remember these experiences as instrumental in making him the person he will become.