Volunteering: Help Others And You Help Yourself

Writing

They say the best way to feel better about yourself is through helping others. And in no act is this more clear than that of  voluntary work.

‘Volunteering’ can refer to a smorgasboard of activities. Whether you simply take an old dear’s chihuahua out for a walk or wash the windows for your neighbour, the task at hand is not the focus, it is the act of simply doing something for someone else without the expectation of something in return from them. Yet, ironically what you do get in return surpasses any materialistic or monetary transaction tenfold over, doing something selflessly brings true merit.

*Studies have proven this to be true.

Towards the end of last year I found myself struggling with esteem in some areas of my life. This absence was, in effect, creating a presence of self-doubt and worthlessness. Deciding enough was enough I took action and sought to find a way to boost my self-esteem, I started looking for a charity to be a part of.

As much as each charity serves an important purpose, for me, children’s charities have resonated with me on a personal level. Everyone should have the right to an enjoyable childhood, as studies show,  a difficult childhood can manifest itself into a disastrous adulthood. So I think anyway to support children’s well-being and development is a great thing to do.

The charity I volunteer at in particular supports children with additional needs – autism, Down’s Syndrome for example. The charity creates a safe space for them to simply be children. We play sports and other activities which gives them 3 hours of fun and their parents some free time.

Although physically and emotionally tiring, the rewards of seeing them enjoy themselves and then find that I myself am smiling by the end of it is evidence of just how much I get from volunteering.

I would strongly suggest that if you ever feel down about yourself or even if you have a bit of spare time, perhaps give volunteering a go. You never know what it could give you in return.

What Do You Take For Granted?

Writing

I recently started volunteering at a charity for children with additional needs.  The charity provides free sports and activity sessions to give these children the opportunity to play and have fun as any child should have the right to do. 

 

Having only attended  a moderate number of session so far I can already feel that volunteering is making an impact on me. 

 

I come away from the sessions with so many feelings and questions. 

 

I asked myself on the train heading away from the venue this week – are the children trapped in their own little worlds, or have they escaped the chaos of mine?

 

They won’t experience the world in the way I do, but as my sister rightly said, they may be happy in their life. If born the way they are then they know no other way of living so how can they miss  or be annoyed at not having another way of living? A point I could not disagree with,

 

Volunteering is a humbling experience, I realise how much I may take for granted. If you can read what I’m writing right now then you are privileged as there are still 750 million illiterate adults across the world today. If you can understand these words in English then you are within 20% of the world’s population that can.

 

This is not me trying to play top trumps, I’m not saying that because you and I can read and another person cannot, this makes us better than them, not at all., I simply mean our ability to read is almost taken for granted, we think nothing of it to read signs and books, yet somewhere else in the world a person cannot do this. 

 

We live in a society of ‘I want more, more, more’, we always want more money, more friends, more holidays. And we forget to notice our most fundamental abilities, we take these privileges for granted: talking, listening, reading, writing. All taken for granted. 

 

Being a charity volunteer is a humbling experience, bringing with it an appreciation, a gratitude for many factors of my life which I may have ashamedly overlooked previous to this. Maybe our own lives would be alot happier if we focused on being thankful for the simple things instead of material things.  

Why Are We So Ungrateful?

Writing

If you can read this right now then you have the ability to see. Sight is one of the most valuable senses us humans can posses yet paradoxically it is one we take most for granted. Too busy complaining about our bosses thinking they’re better than us or stressing that we aren’t earning as much as our partners, we lose focus. Instead of moaning about somebody else to make yourself feel better can you not spend a second seeing the good you already possess? For your ability to speak, for your ability to cook, the list goes on. I write this post to share my thoughts on this point, this focus on ungratefulness has crept up on me several times. One example of which was just several days ago when I was walking to work in the morning, on route I passed a beautifully dressed young lady, she was wearing a maroon headband made of silk, a ruffled lemon blouse and bottle green cigarette trousers and she was using a white cane because she was blind.

 

As I passed her my negative thoughts of how bored I am living in the same flat to how annoying a colleague is at work suddenly meant nothing Instead I was stunned with the realisation that I had no reason to complain, because what I was complaining about was so petty. I had more important things to be thankful for thank things I had to complain about. I was going to work to use my skills, I had the ability to walk where other people may not be able to do this , I had the ability to see where others may not have the ability to do this. I must stress that this post is not me trying to compare myself to someone else and state that because they don’t have something and I do that I should feel good about that or better about myself. But instead I aim to highlight that we all have qualities in our lives which we overlook all too frequently, for example while we’re too busy chasing the next pay cheque we forget that we’re fortunate enough to have our health. Or whilst we complain that strangers are rude to us on our commutes we forget that we have a loving family at home. While we judge something critically in the shop window we forget that we have the ability to see the expressions of joy on others around us. To stop for a moment and be thankful of the most underrated elements of your life will surely enrich it?

 

I truly believe that the real answer to being happy is being grateful. To further support this opinion of mine, I need to look just at last week. As much as I enjoyed the Isle of Wight Festival , I must say camping was tough. Let’s be honest lying in a damp cloth cocoon in a bumpy field is a fast track way to insomnia I’ve no doubt about it.  But in some ways, anytime I go camping I’m thankful afterwards. And this time was no different, for on my return to London I couldn’t have had a bigger smile on my face as I jumped into my bed after a shower with actual hot water! A week prior to the festival and I treated a warm bed and a hot shower as expected, fast forward a week and I saw it as a luxury. My point being to feel good about things and about yourself perhaps it takes a moment to realise. Perhaps it takes a week camping for you to appreciate home comforts, atleast it did for me.

 

A tip I do sometimes actually, especially if I’ve had a bad day is list 5 things I’m grateful for that night before going to bed. It may not solve all of your problems but it certainly helps remove the storm cloud from above your head so you can sleep And who knows, maybe if you do it frequently enough you may be a happier person in the long run. I think so.

Poem: Disability

Writing

 

Disability

It’s all about perspective.

To you, I’m Dissed.

Disadvantaged.

Dismissed, before I even get a chance to.

 

Whether I’m ‘weak’ in the mind,

Or ‘weak’ at the knees.

Your mind’s made up,

Before I even get a chance to plead.

 

You judge me on appearances.

Refuse to look beyond my disability.

Take no time to read between the lines.

You think you are better than me.

 

I am a disabled person.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t have ability.

I am a disabled person.

Who has a different ability.

 

To Dad, thank you for teaching me how to see the world differently, through your eyes.

The Poetry of War

Writing

Below are two poems I have written which I may enter into an upcoming competition The competition challenges the writer to explore the concept of national identity, by responding to how it is portrayed in the works of WWII Poets.

I chose Timothy Corsellis’ poem – News Reel of Embarkation 

The antagonism between fighting for one’s country and fighting for one’s own life. You’re walking into battle without a care in the world, Corsellis relays the all too knowing realities of war, his wisdom – a bid to wipe the smiles off the young soldiers naive faces.

Timothy Corsellis’ poem questions how you can be so giddy heading off to war – pre-war feelings

My two poems in response to his, focus on post-war feelings – how you can be struck with trauma (post traumatic stress disorder), a loss of self-identity, a loss of home.

P(lay) T(oy) S(oldiers) D(addy)

I fought for my country,

I fought for my life.

I’m now at home in my country.

But I’m not at home in my mind.

 

I’m lost back out at battle,

I’m battling my inner demons everyday.

The war may be over to the outward eye,

Yet within me it never ends.

What is unfamiliar to you is home for me,

Hearing the tear of flesh,

As you wash your sheets.

Feeling the last breath of a friend on my cheek,

As your mouth feeds.

You can never see what I had to see.

All for a piece of metal, for a so-called identity.

 

The title itself reflects the innocence of a child, a child who looks up to their father for support and leadership, meanwhile the parent is suffering from PTSD – Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Hiding his pain from his child. From the world as best he can. 

 

VETERAN HOMELESSNESS

I HAVE A HOME,

IT’S 53 BELVEDERE RD,

IT HAS A BIG TREE OAK,

AND A BIG CHIMNEY THAT SMOKES.

 

MY CHILDREN, THEY PLAY IN THE GARDEN,

BEANEATH THE BIG OAK TREE,

MY WIFE, IS SUNBATHING EFFORTLESSLY,

AND IT IS THERE SHE WAITS FOR ME.

 

I DO ONEDAY, HOPE THAT I RETURN,

TO THE FAMILY I  LEFT BEHIND.

TO HAVE MET MY FATE AT THE END OF A BARREL,

MAY HAVE BEEN MY ONLY WAY TO FIND,

PEACE.

 

ATLEAST THAT WAS HOW I USE TO THINK,

WHEN I USE TO THINK AND FEEL.

NOW ALL I FEEL IS THE WET COLD GROUND,

AND THE CHALKY TASTE OF PILLS.

IT’S WEIRD HOW I FOUGHT FOR YOUR LIFE,

BUT YOU DON’T EVEN NOTICE MINE.

YOU WALK PASSED ME ON THE SIDE OF THE STREET.

MAYBE YOU JUST DON’T HAVE THE TIME.

 

So many of our veterans are suffering. The Mirror has reported that atleast 13,000 soldiers are left homeless after serving. Shouldn’t government funding go towards getting them off the street than on painting parks and leaf blowing?

The fact that the poem has no set rhythm between verses emphasises the disillusionment the war veteran is experiencing, lost flow reflects his sense of losing his family, his home and himself (his identity).

Poem order: normality – he had a home a sense of place, he went to war and lost himself, scarred by the trauma, on return he struggled to cope, he became a recluse, thought it better to end his life by overdose, but now doesn’t even have the effort for that. He is numb to any emotion. He sits on our street corners, we walk by not batting an eye for a man/woman who has in actual fact saved our lives. They’ve lost their identity, but haven’t we lost part of our own? Haven’t we as a society lost our morals?