You Don’t need to be a Grown Up to be Kind, Wise thoughts from a 12 year old

Serving others is a gift that is granted to all people—no matter who we are or what we do.

We don’t need to have the most money, the most talent or the most time.

We don’t even need to be grown-ups! I’m just 12 years old, but I’ve been volunteering with my mom and dad for years. At first, I felt a bit shy and scared because we were mostly working with adults. But once I saw the happiness we were bringing to people’s lives, I realized that even I, as a kid, could have a positive impact.

Unfortunately, some people simply don’t have a desire to volunteer without being asked to do so. Some aren’t aware of the problems in their communities that they could help solve. Others don’t believe they can actually make a difference. Because of these reasons, only 25 percent of Americans volunteer—a number that should be much higher.

I want to spread the word about how important it is to volunteer in our communities. Anyone can do it, and everybody should. All we need to succeed is desire, awareness and belief.

Don’t miss out on volunteering.

Whether they don’t have time or just don’t want to, people who don’t volunteer are missing out. Volunteers have the chance to change lives, serve a purpose, bring joy to those around them and even help themselves live better lives.

Studies show that there are strong connections between physical health, mental health, and volunteering. Those who devote time to serving others tend to live longer lives and have less depression.

Like Martin Luther King Jr. said, I believe we can all find time to help others, bring joy to the world around us, strengthen our communities and serve a greater purpose.

Work it into your schedule.

I might only be a kid, but I understand what it’s like to have a busy schedule. Between school, sports, and homework, my life can get really hectic. That’s why I volunteer on the weekends. Making a positive impact is a great way to end the week.

My mom is a board member at Interfaith Community Services, a San Diego nonprofit that serves the homeless. Once or twice a month, family, friends and I visit the organization and serve dinner to those in need.

I have also volunteered at a teen shelter, where we built desks, shelves and wall hangings for the building. My Boy Scouts troop has given me great opportunities to serve the community, one of which involved singing Christmas carols at a senior citizens center.

When our schedules are full of rewarding activities like these, we may be busy—but it’s the good kind of busy!

I’ve learned many lessons from volunteering.

Volunteering has taught me so much. The first thing I’ve learned is to have a greater appreciation for life. When we realize how little other people have, it helps us realize that we have so much to give. It makes us better people and more grateful for everything we have.

Over the years, I’ve learned to appreciate what seem like “normal” things to most people: having a house to live in, having access to three warm meals every day and being able to take hot showers. Even having the ability to go get a haircut whenever I want is something to be grateful for.

I think we could all benefit from taking a moment to realize that not everyone has access to these things.

Volunteering also makes me happy. Helping others is a great feeling. If I can make someone happy, I’m doing something right. Making a difference and affecting the lives of others makes people feel accomplished, which is why volunteers come back time and time again to continue helping. Spreading joy to those in need gives us something money can’t buy.

For example, when my family and I serve food to the homeless, people always come up to us afterward with big smiles on their faces, telling us how much they appreciated the meal. One time, we brought in special homemade cupcakes for dessert, and they were a big hit! It felt so good to see our friends enjoy the sweet treat we made for them.

All of these reasons are why I believe that anyone and everyone should take some time to help the less fortunate. Whether it’s a homeless shelter or a humane society, taking time out of our own day to help with any organization makes us better people.

Aristotle once said that the essence of life is “to serve others and do good,” which sums up why I love volunteering.

What’s your favorite reason to volunteer?