Recently I read about Weston Sprott, Second Trombonist for the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra.  He makes an annual trip to South Africa where he teaches students who’ve never left their home towns about professional quality chamber music.  Although Mr. Sprott is paid for part of his gig, he also donates instruments, sheet music and lessons to eager students, even providing music lessons over Skype, once he returns to the States.

 

Truth be told, the holidays are a painful time – bittersweet at best – for many people.  In my experience here are some of the reasons why.  We:

  • think more than usual about losses this time of year, such as the death of loved ones or of relationships lost

  • tend to assume that others are filled with holiday cheer, which makes our low moments, by comparison, even lower

  • may not have the financial means to buy gifts – or at least the kind of gifts – we’d like to give friends and loved ones

  • might not have family living nearby, and may be unable to visit them due to financial, work, health or other concerns

  • may feel more blue this time of year, given the shift in the sun’s rays as summer becomes Fall, which in turn, morphs into Winter

 

Now that I’ve brought your holiday spirits to an all-time low, the good news is that there is an elixir for your pain:  stepping outside of yourself and helping someone else in need.  It’s common knowledge that volunteering can be helpful for the receiver.  But those who volunteer are often surprised at how much they get back from the experience.  In fact volunteering is often more curative for the giver than it is for the receiver, especially over the Holidays.  This was the very theme of Charles Dickens’ classic and beloved novella, The Christmas Carol.  Helping others in need:

  •  takes our minds off of our own issues

  • helps us to forget about our loneliness and in fact can provide us with a sense of community

  •  gives us the satisfaction of knowing we’ve helped someone else in need

  • puts our own problems into perspective

  • encourages us to reconsider our values, priorities and even the role spirituality plays in our lives

  • improves our health by decreasing heart disease, chronic pain and depression, and reducing mortality rates, according to the Corporation for Community and National Service

  • reminds us that the Holidays aren’t about the parties and the presents, but rather about the joy giving to others brings us

 

Often, people tell me that they don’t know how to locate volunteer opportunities.  Some communities have a voluntary action center or other clearing house for volunteer opportunities.  Churches, the Red Cross, homeless shelters, senior centers and soup kitchens, can all provide possible chances to make a difference this holiday season.  But sometimes the answer is literally right in front of us;  that family whose sole bread-winner has lost their job; or that old or infirm neighbor who may otherwise be alone and sad this time of year.  Seize the moment by helping someone carry their groceries or shovel their driveway.  Invite another driver to get in front of you on the road, or a fellow customer to check out before you at the store.

 

Volunteering can come in many forms.  This Holiday season why not find the joy that accompanies helping someone in need, just because? If Weston Sprott can make time to reach out to others, why can’t we? 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shake off the Holiday Blues by Voluteering!

by Maud Purcell

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