If you are the type of person who really likes to volunteer, then you probably don’t need to read this. But if, like me, you’d always kinda rather not volunteer and mostly just hope no one asks you, this is for you. As with many things in life, the fact that I don’t like it doesn’t mean I should consider myself off the hook for having to do it. Yeah, it’s extra; yeah, you don’t get paid; and yeah, after you volunteer for one thing you’ll be the first to get asked to volunteer for the next thing too. We all know this, and none of us believe the person asking us to volunteer when they say, “It’ll be fun!” Smile.
It’s hard to say you’re really invested in a community, though, if you never help out. So, volunteer a little. Depending on your state in life it can be more or less difficult to volunteer, so pick something that is in your wheelhouse and only stretches you a little in terms of stress and time commitment. I think a reasonable amount of time to shoot for as a general rule, is about one hour a week with breaks for Christmas and the Summer. It’s probably a good idea to choose something you’re invested in too. Also, decide what you can handle and then just say, “No,” to stuff you can’t.
For me, the issue that motivated was the faith formation of my children. A year or so ago, after not having volunteered regularly for anything for a while, my wife and I decided to volunteer for children’s ministry at the parish. It makes the Sunday a bit longer, but it doesn’t add a whole extra drive in the evening somewhere during the middle of the week, which is the real killer for our schedule. The first year was a little brutal for me, I’m not going to lie. I found out managing the behavior of 10-12 kids who are not mine can actually be pretty difficult, even for 30 minutes.
But you know what? After a year or so of intermittently telling all the other dads I met how it would sure be a lot more fun if they joined me, turns out a bunch of them did. Now my group has three adults that swap leading each week while the other two are on hand to help and I’ve gotten to know some new people. I’ve seen some of those kids come out of their shells a bit and become easier to interact with. Also, it is more fun now than it was. If you’re socially awkward, working on a common goal with people helps give you something to do and talk about, and after a while people start recognizing you and actually smiling when they see you. Go figure.
As introverts, we can spend a fair amount of time thinking about things and forming strong opinions about how things ought to be done. The trouble is that no one has a reason to listen to us if they don’t know us, and it’s easy for us to get caught in a cycle of complaining about how nothing changes. Maybe your ideas still stink and no one should listen to you, but chances are you’ve got some good ones. One of the best ways to gain others’ trust is to prove that you care by showing up to help. It’s a good way of proving that to yourself too.