Happiness Challenge Day 4: Volunteering

"Volunteers do not necessarily have the time; they just have the heart." -- Elizabeth Andrew

"I do it for the joy it brings
Because I'm a joyful girl
Because the world owes me nothing
And we owe each other the world
I do it because it's the least I can do
I do it because I learned it from you
I do it just because I want to
Because I want to."
- Ani DiFranco, Joyful Girl 

Like several of the topics I'll write about during the 31 day happiness challenge, I could spend an entire month writing about this one: Volunteering.

It's in my DNA, starting from going with Dad to to Kiwanis runs as a little girl and watching Mom spend endless hours volunteering in our schools. I was taught that if you can, you raise your hand when the call for help is made. 

When I was in college I met my best friends volunteering. My mom and dad taught me that I'd meet the most likeminded people in activities that I cared about (er, we won't go into the *networking* that took place at McKenzie's Bar). Cliff, Stephanie and I still laugh about how earnest we were in getting up at the crack of dawn on Saturday mornings for Into The Streets or Mortarboard socials. We were somewhat nerds trying to figure out the design of our "Into The Streets" t-shirts. OK, we were total nerds.

Here I am with Cliff in some undated photo. (Not sure why I'm wearing leather pants and somewhat dressed like Elvis in the '68 Comeback Special, but that's another story.)

When I moved to Birmingham I looked for people with that same spirit, and found it with getting involved with Hospice and Artwalk. Later the thread of volunteerism became a full time job, with seven great years at the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center. I loved my work supporting that cause, and whenI returned to journalism knew that I'd continue being involved as a volunteer.

I'm drawn to people who have that same energy. People who are hungry to make a change in the world, starting with their community. I love the process of creative collaborations and what happens when smart people put their brains together to solve problems. There's a lot of this in Birmingham. It's one of the reasons I've stayed. 

I get so excited sometimes I have to remind myself of this:

Seriously, that's me. So to that, I'm focused on three main volunteer projects now: a writing class at Nate's school; serving on the board of The Alabama Social Media Association, which makes social media more accessible to our community, and doing social media for Paint The Town Red , a fundraiser for the Birmingham Chapter of the American Red Cross (Saturday, April 14 -- buy your tickets!). 

They're very different organizations, with some similar themes: education, creativity, supporting a diverse community. (Realizing that I've said "community" a lot in this post. Tried to find another word for it, but "community" says it all.)

This month, the Alabama Social Media Association celebrates our first anniversary. Last month we had our first sold out meeting with the one and only James Spann (video), and we're planning a ton more for our second year. Why do I volunteer? Watch this video and check out the faces of the people who have come to our events the first year.

The truth is: I get more out of volunteering than I give. That's the secret of it all. When I look at the faces of the people in this video, I'm happy. 


ALsocme 1-year anniversary from Alabama Social Media Association on Vimeo.

What makes you happy? Share with us during our #31daysofhappiness project. And check out the other participants:

The #31DaysofHappinessBrigade


That's Just My Opinion 

Nothing But Time 

My Sweet Addiction 

Jen Talks A Lot 

Related Links:

The Surprising Health Benefits of Volunteering