The opinions expressed in this column are the views of the author.
‘Tis the season for giving. This is a festive time, but giving doesn’t have to entail expensive gifts and fancy bows. While it’s a busy time of year, it’s also a great opportunity to reflect on our blessings and give our time and talent back to our community. MFAN recently organized a volunteer opportunity for former and current Advisory Board members. We gathered on a cold, rainy Saturday in Springfield, Virginia and spent a few hours helping Operation Homefront spread holiday cheer to military and veteran families in the local area.
“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” –Gandhi
Leaving active duty and becoming a military spouse was a difficult transition for me. In uniform, I had a mission. But when I ditched the uniform, I struggled to find my purpose. I spent the first six months throwing myself into a job I was way overqualified for and indulging in mindless activities like binge watching shows I had missed on deployment. Then we PCS’d to Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. Knowing we would be there for a couple years, I knew something needed to change or I was going to spiral into a depressive state.
I joined Stroller Warriors and started running. I made an effort to get to know my neighbors. Most importantly, I began my volunteer journey. I got involved with my husband’s battalion’s family readiness program. As a volunteer, I met amazing spouses, contributed to improving the overall morale of the unit during a very high operational tempo, and discovered how meaningful it is to give back without expectation.
“Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” –Arthur Ashe
Since that time, I have continued to serve in various volunteer roles within the military family readiness program, through our church, and in our local community softball program. I’ve fluctuated between being a stay-at-home-mom, working part-time, and now full-time employment, so at each duty station my volunteer work looks a little different. But at each location, I make it a priority to give some time in service of others. That’s the thing with volunteering – it’s not an all or nothing proposition. If we all give what we can, imagine how much better off we’d be as a whole.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” –Margaret Mead
At the Operation Homefront event, I had the opportunity to bring my children along to help. It was the perfect time to help them learn the value of volunteerism and to remind them how fortunate they are. My younger daughter summarized the experience beautifully saying, “That wasn’t even like work. I had so much fun helping people find toys for their kids!” So, if you’re feeling stressed this holiday season, carve out some time to give back to others, you may be surprised at how it fills your cup. It doesn’t matter how much time or what talents you contribute, what matters is that you show up.