This month we are recognizing IT engineer Ted Larsen. Here’s what he told us when we asked about his volunteer experiences.
Why do you volunteer?
I’m an overachiever AND completely awesome as well. I always sat in the front row at school and at the back of the bus on the way home.
But seriously, in the grand scheme of things we are all no more than a pebble of sand on the beach of life. It’s hard sometimes to find something you feel you can make a difference in.
Volunteering gives me a feeling of satisfaction that, no matter how small the act, any effort can make a difference to that pebble of sand next to you. We all need to feel like we matter to someone or something. If you can make someone feel relevant and NOT like just another grain of sand, I don’t know why anyone would not take advantage of that.
What do you enjoy most about volunteering? A favorite memory?
Seeing joy on people’s faces. Period. Nothing makes me happier then when I see my actions make someone I don’t even know feel special or cared for.
How has your volunteer experience impacted your workplace?
Working for a company that prides itself in making a positive impact on the community is something that I feel very proud of. At the very least, it gets people thinking about each other and not just the daily grind of their own tasks and responsibilities. The “pay it forward” mentality starts to grow, and that incubates and strengthens the community movement. People are always in a better mood in the workplace when they feel their actions matter.
What have you learned while volunteering?
Many things, but one thing that stands out is learning that not everyone who needs help actually is comfortable receiving it. Many times there is a stigma around people who need help; that they are simply trying to get something for free or, in the worst case, simply beggars that don’t have any desire to better themselves. I’ve learned that this stereotype isn’t always accurate. There are many proud individuals out there that only accept help because they don’t have a choice and it’s difficult for them to accept it. At times that can make them look unappreciative, but I don’t think that’s the truth. I think they often don’t know how to accept help and still feel good about themselves. That’s where it’s important to show them you aren’t just helping to check a box off of some list or daily chore, but because you do sincerely care about them. If they don’t feel your support is genuine, they won’t ever feel comfortable accepting it.
Do you have any advice for other volunteers or people who want to get involved?
The most difficult thing for new volunteers is getting past their own fears. It’s very easy to come up with excuses why NOT to volunteer: too busy, not enough money, I don’t really offer much, etc. Until you’ve taken the step out of your comfort zone and gotten a different perspective on WHY people need help, you don’t really ever “get it”. Once you see that first appreciative smile or genuine “Thank You” from someone who really appreciates what you do, you’ll never think twice about volunteering again. My advice would be to not let fear or excuses rob you of that experience.
Although it’s difficult to see at times, the foundation of our society and its ability to survive is – in some ways – rooted in the core human value of kindness. If all we did as a species was act on our own needs and desires, the human race would not have evolved to be the dominate species on the planet. Philosophy aside, we are strengthened as a society because of our ability to act selflessly to others, no matter where you feel that virtue originates from. Religious foundations from a greater power or just core values of our species, kindness is part of what makes us “human”. Being part of the greater good is what we all should strive for. Volunteering is a key cog in that wheel. Embrace it!
Since joining the Don’t Panic Labs team, Ted has volunteered for these organizations: Boys & Girls Club, CEDARS Youth Services, Center for People in Need, Child Advocacy Center, Clinic with a Heart, Community Action Partners, Concordia College, Cornhusker Place, Individual Church, Lincoln Children’s Zoo, Lincoln Community Foundation, Lincoln Food Bank, Lux Center for the Arts, Lincoln Public Schools, MilkWorks, Nebraska Community Blood Bank, Partnership for Healthy Lincoln, People’s City Mission, Salvation Army, St. Monica’s, TeamMates Mentoring, Voices of Hope, Volunteer Partners, and Prairie Hill School.