One of the great things about this job is that in editing stories reporters turn in, I know I’m likely to learn something that makes me stop and think.
That’s what happened this week when I read today’s Daily Item report about volunteering by Eric Scicchitano.
You can read it for yourself starting on the front page.
In addition to serving the community and helping people, it turns out, volunteering is good for our health.
As part of his reporting on the search for volunteers for several traditional Valley events — including Mifflinburg’s Christkindl Market, the Union County Veterans’ 4th of July Parade in Lewisburg and the Sunbury New Year’s Eve celebration — Eric came across some studies that gave statistical validity to the idea that health and volunteering can go hand in hand.
One of the stories he wrote includes a 2017 survey of 1,500 Texas residents. That study found that mental and physical health, life satisfaction and social well-being all correlated positively with volunteering.
A 2011 survey he also came across showed that volunteers live longer than non-volunteers.
Both of those studies, by the way, indicated the health benefits were higher if the volunteering was done for altruistic purposes.
I’m not sure I buy that. I would think volunteering would always be better than sitting on the sofa regardless of your motivation. But I’m no social scientist.
Eric asked Dr. Anthony Ragusea, a board-certified clinical psychologist with Evangelical Community Hospital, about the correlation.
Ragusea said he frequently suggests that patients volunteer as part of a healthy lifestyle.
Unlike the surveys though, Ragusea seems to think the social aspect is part of why volunteering is good for our health.
“It tends to be good for people socially,” Ragusea told Eric. “If you’re looking to make friends or maybe even spark a romantic relationship, one of the best ways to do it is by volunteering. You’re picking a group of people who already have a common interest.”
Ultimately, I don’t think it matters. Getting out into the community and doing something valuable with your time has zero downside and all sorts of possible benefits.
I hope you’ll take the time to read Eric’s stories today, and then make the choice to volunteer.
Let me suggest one more point to the people running the organizations that are looking for volunteers.
From personal experience during other parts of my life, I have sometimes found that new people don’t always immediately feel warmly welcomed by veteran organizers.
I once tried to volunteer to coach one of my son’s baseball teams in New Jersey — something I’d had a lot of prior experience doing.
There was an existing group of guys who’d been coaching together for a long time. They weren’t all that interested in this new guy who’d just moved in from upstate New York.
Fortunately, my son was a good player, so I got a little credibility by extension. But it still took a couple of seasons for me to feel fully accepted.
If somebody new raises their hand to help, please make them feel welcome right away.
That will be healthy for all concerned.
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