The shortcut to happiness: volunteering

National Volunteer Week: April 21-27, 2013

I value volunteering so much, I made it part of my personal “slogan”: Laughing thinker, miner of inspirational insights, storyteller, and community volunteer.

Why? Because selfless giving slingshots a person smack dab into the centre of happiness. Go directly to happiness. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200.

Paradoxically, I give selflessly for selfish reasons. I want to be happy, therefore I give.

Not everyone gets the connection. Last year I chatted to an acquaintance about my work as treasurer of the Canadian Authors Association in the National Capital Region. “You volunteer?” she said, as though I had coughed up a lung and handed it to the organization.

“Yes,” I said, perplexed by her vehement reaction. “That’s only one thing I do. I volunteer a lot of my time. It’s very satisfying.”

At that moment, another friend passed by. She turned and said to him, “Did you know that Arlene volunteers.” There went my other lung.

He reacted like I thought he should: confused about why she should be so surprised. “O-o-o-k-a-a-y. That’s . . . good.”

I walked away shaking my head.

She doesn’t know what she’s missing. (And she’s often grumpy, I might add. Selfless giving would do her some good.)

In our household, over the years, we have volunteered at: play groups, day care centres, Boy Scouts, Girl Guides, hockey leagues, Little League baseball, the tennis club, community resource centres, L’Arche, SchoolBOX, Habitat for Humanity, the Jerry Lewis telethon, schools (elementary, middle and high), church, the Canadian Authors Association, Ski Patrol, World Vision . . . oh, I know I’m missing some. Last fall, my husband received the Queen’s Jubilee Medal in recognition of his career achievements and his commitment to amateur sport. Our household would fit into the category of what the Canada Survey of Giving, Volunteering and Participating (CSGVP) calls “über volunteers”.

We are a very happy household.

My friend volunteers for the Canadian Red Cross. He helped out after Hurricane Katrina. He went to Haiti for a month after the earthquake. He spent several weeks on the Jersey shore after last year’s hurricane. His mantra: “I get back so much more than I give.”

Amen to that.


4 thoughts on “The shortcut to happiness: volunteering

  1. Sharyn Heagle

    Great piece, Arlene.

    So glad you mentioned CAA. Hope some of our members are on your mailing list

    I’ve had meetings recently with Winchester District Memorial Hospital about a volunteer job. Was looking for something simple to take up a couple of hours per week, but they want me on the Board of Directors.

    Not sure if I want to get THAT involved though he assures me it would take about three hours a week. I’m thinking about it.

    Just can’t seem to stay home and do nothing



    1. Arlene Somerton Smith Post author

      Thanks, Sharyn. Sorry it took me a while to get to this comment, but you were put in the SPAM file for some strange reason. I know that you are another uber volunteer, and I salute you!


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