Know how you can add 1+1+1 and get way more than 3?
When you combine three things that bring their own benefits into one new thing, you end up with multiplied benefits.
In the case of outdoor volunteering, we combine the known benefits of:
into a single wonderful package. Here are 11 reasons why it’s worth it…
1. It gets you outside and off your rear
I don’t know about you, but I spend a lot of my day sitting. That’s one of the reasons I loved my 18-month volunteer gig with a local horse rescue. For two hours I was off my rear and working hard scooping poo, hauling hay, sometimes walking horses…whatever the day required. A wonderful break from sitting, sitting and more sitting.
2. A great family affair
Our family’s recent outdoor volunteering project has become an annual tradition. We started five years ago when our kids were teens. Now that they’re young adults they still look forward to it, and will schedule work and school around it if they can. As a mom, I treasure that!
3. Can introduce city kids to the outdoors
Our annual volunteer retreat—cutting, splitting and stacking cord-upon-cord of firewood for a northwoods Christian ministry—has been an awesome way to introduce our kids’ city friends to the wilderness. Some of them have never hiked the beautiful trails, or lived for a weekend without running water, or had to stoke a wood stove instead of turning on a furnace.
4. Can introduce minorities to the outdoors
If you recall the topic of a Journal issue a couple months ago, the outdoor recreation landscape is overwhelmingly white. So invite along your multi-ethnic friends to experience the great outdoors, too. You just might open up a new world for them!
5. Learn new skills
Almost none of the young folks we bring on our wood cutting weekends for the first time have split wood with an ax before. And they all love it! It’s so empowering for them to realize what they can do. Most of them ask to come back to do it again.
6. Get away from media
Not just our kids, but us! A few days away from the internet, tv and phones can do wonders for your peace of mind.
7. See new parts of your state, region or country
There are volunteer opportunities at state parks, regional parks, national parks, wilderness non-profits…Find a local place and volunteer regularly, or volunteer somewhere you’ve always wanted to go, and make a trip of it.
Go to your state’s DNR website for ideas, or your local county and city parks websites.
Other ideas: local animal rescues, humane societies, summer camps and zoos.
8. Meet new people
Invite people to your own group who don’t know each other yet. Or join up with an established volunteer group. You automatically have something in common with these soon-to-be friends—your love of the outdoors and your love of giving.
9. Gain a new appreciation
Every state or national trail system (like the Superior Hiking Trail and the Appalachian Trail) has volunteer weekends for trial maintenance. I haven’t done this yet, but I’ll bet those who do have a new appreciation for what goes into keeping those trails in top condition for those who use and love them.
10. Focus outward
One of the very top benefits of volunteering is focused giving. Remember Jesus’ words, “It is more blessed to give than receive”? Well, turns out—it is!
In their book The Paradox of Generosity, the authors state: “Generous people tend to receive back goods that are even more valuable than those they gave: happiness, health, a sense of purpose in life, and personal growth.” (The Paradox of Generosity, by Christian Smith & Hilary Davidson, © 2014 Oxford University Press)
11. Create a lifestyle
All these choices—getting outdoors, being active and giving—can become a lifestyle. Kids who are raised this way see it as normal, and are very likely to keep doing it all their lives.
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Sharon is the founder and publisher of Active Outdoor Women. She loves getting outside in beautiful places to hike, paddle, camp, snowshoe, ski, ride—and encouraging others to come along! Besides maintaining AOW and her other website, Twin Cities Outdoors, Sharon writes and designs websites, newsletters, blogs, emails, books and other marketing tools for clients.