How to have a meaningful life without kids
Part 2/5 – Volunteer
If volunteering doesn’t sound like your thing, remember that there’s more to it than soup kitchens and dog walking (both of which are incredibly helpful, by the way). My high school experiences with volunteering were slightly – for lack of a better word – disappointing. We’d all carpool over to someplace, do a minimal amount of work (such as sealing a stack of envelopes), and then go back to school. It seemed like a highly inefficient process to me, and led me to believe that volunteering was just a way for people to feel like they were doing good without getting much accomplished.
However, when I began taking college classes, I had a completely different experience. The lab portion of a GenEd biology course took place at the local park/wildlife preserve. Our goal was to create a set of retention ponds. This was in Florida in an area experiencing rapid expansion that had a noticeable impact on local wildlife. The ponds were more to provide a new, safe ecosystem for animals than to prevent flooding. It sounded fairly dull… but it was anything but.
The ponds had already been dug and water had accumulated. The class of 20 or so students went out on a weekly basis and took water samples, donned rubber coveralls to wade into the pond and plant duckwead, and even taught a group of middle school students about our work there. I was tanned, sore, tired, and smelled like pond water at the end of each day. And it was amazing. Afterward, every time I drove past the park, I felt a sense of pride, because I’d actually done legit work to create those ponds.
I realize now that as a high schooler, my volunteer experiences were meant to introduce me to the idea of volunteering in a way that didn’t require my parents to sign a liability waiver. As an adult, I can now do work that has a real, positive impact on those around me.
So what can you do? You can certainly find local groups with which to volunteer. But as a free agent, your options are limitless. Organize something yourself. Create the Good has a library of resources about starting your own volunteering efforts. You can clean a river or for something less intense and more long-term, start a community garden.
Singer, songwriter, and activist Zoe Boekbinder (incidentally a single, childfree woman) started the Prison Music Project. The project connects prisoners to music, helping lower recidivism and improve conditions. One woman started this project. You could do just as much.
If you’d like to leave the house but not have to fill out any forms or commit to being anywhere at a certain time, you can improve your community by simply picking up litter. Get a pair of gloves, a trash bag, and go. Your community will probably never thank you for it, but you’re doing this for personal fulfillment, not praise.
Or, try this resource for computer-based ways to volunteer: helpfromhome.org.
There are so many ways to turn what you love into something that contributes to the community. This is how you have a meaningful life.
Next up in the series: Part 3/5 – Learn and Teach.
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