“It is more blessed to give than receive” God.
“Well, we are volunteers of America (volunteers of America)” Jefferson Airplane
Volunteering is an excellent thing for anybody. There are many benefits beyond the positive aspect that you are doing something good for others. Volunteering is a great way to meet new people and make friends, and to expand your horizons.
I have two experiences volunteering. One was before my mental illness and the other after.
My first experience with volunteering was in a local hospital. I was a junior volunteer which is the male counterpart to a ‘candy striper’. Unlike the young ladies who had a red and white striped uniform the males wore yellow shirts with brown pants. My friend “Jess” (not his real name) got me involved. Jess was one of those people who have a silver tongue. He could really talk to the ladies. Myself at that time in my life I was very shy and introverted. Volunteering helped bring me out of my shell.
We worked in the small restaurant in the hospital. Basically we would take orders, serve the customers and than clean up. We didn’t get paid at all with all tips being donated to the hospital. We did however get a free meal for our efforts and I was always grateful for my turkey club sandwich. Jess would get dates with the girls while I made friends. I recall one of the customers an elderly man who fought in World War 2. He took a liking to me calling me a “scholar and a gentleman”. It was a great positive experience. I wrote about this in my memoirs “More Than The Madness”.
Now my wife Sylvia and I presently volunteer at a group called New Jersey Peace Action. At first we were there to do whatever was needed. As such we helped with mailings and cleaning up. Even then my wife’s illness of dementia really hampered her. She found putting labels on envelopes difficult. Still we persevered as whenever I asked my wife if she wanted to go to “Peace Action” she was quite enthusiastic about it. The people really treat her nice which makes the world for me.
Presently I serve as the Volunteer Political Coordinator. What I do is contact our local congressmen and senators to arrange a meeting between their representatives and ours. This is quite a lot of work because it takes multiple phone calls and emails to get them to commit. Sylvia is of course now our official ‘supervisor’ and we are happy with her work as long as she doesn’t get out of her chair to wander around the cluttered office.
Another thing that I did was to edit a poetry book. It helped me to learn the process of creating a book on create space. The book is called “Peace Poems” and contains some really great poems. https://johnkaniecki.weebly.com/peace-poems.html
For those in the process of recovering from mental illness or for those not up to the harshness of a paying job serving as a volunteer is an excellent step. It is a good way to gauge how far you are in the road of recovery. When somebody gets hospitalized because of a mental illness it is a very traumatic experience which takes time in recovering. The goal for anybody suffering from mental illness should be to live as full of life as possible. Working at a job is certainly on the list for that agenda. Still it is a big jump from not doing anything rigorous to going back to work, even if it is a part time job. A time as a volunteer just might be the right thing.