Leah, a former client who has been grumbling for months about her daughters not paying enough attention to her, “especially now that I am stuck at home and need them more than ever”, felt so snubbed by them that she was actually contemplating excluding one of them from her will.
A few days ago she called to happily inform me that she had started knitting octopi dolls for preterm infants in hospitals as part of a national volunteer project that was beginning to gain momentum here in Israel.*
Leah told me, “I convinced all my friends to participate as well and we are all knitting. You do not understand how much fun it is to get up in the morning with a purpose”.
“The idea that my knitting can help a preemie develop makes me feel so happy, especially now when I do not have much to do and I cannot go anywhere”.
Leah found a new meaning and direction in her life. She stopped complaining about her daughters’ lack of interest in her life.
The octopus for a preemie project started in Denmark and has spread worldwide. The octopus or “Octopal” acts as a calming aid: The tentacles replicate the umbilical cord which babies hold onto in the womb. With the tentacles to hold, babies are less likely to pull out tubes and essential monitoring equipment cables that are attached to their bodies. This calms the babies, helps them feel better and consequently contributes to their wellbeing.
My mother, who is also stuck at home since she is over 70 and considered high risk, has decided to volunteer her time by calling others who are also in her position but may feel more isolated and vulnerable. She volunteers through an organization that makes calls once a day to check up on people, consequently, making them feel more connected to the community and less alone.
“If I can, through a daily phone call, do something good for someone else and alleviate even a little of the loneliness s/he is feeling, then why not?”. My mother added, “I’m home anyway because of Covid-19, so why not volunteer my time for something good”?
Honestly, why not?
As many people get older and retire they find it more and more difficult to maintain a sense of purpose and self-esteem. This is even more emphasized now with the coronavirus, since elders as young as 65 are considered high risk and are advised to stay at home. The opportunity to feel connected and valuable becomes more of a challenge for them.
Volunteering provides a sense of purpose. It can also help take our mind off our own worries, keep us mentally stimulated and add more zest to our life. Focusing on others can give us a deeper sense of perspective, help distract us from negative thoughts and help stop rumination. Volunteering often shows us that, in fact, our own lives are not as bad as we thought they were.
Volunteering offers a tremendous boost to healthy aging. Numerous studies confirm that seniors with a sense of purpose are less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease, disabilities, heart attacks or strokes, and are more likely to live longer than people who are still searching for a purposeful outlet.
Volunteering makes us happy. By measuring hormones and brain activity, researchers have discovered that being helpful to others delivers immense pleasure. Human beings are hard-wired to give to others. The more we give, the happier we feel.
Volunteering increases self-confidence. We are doing good for others and the community, which provides a natural sense of accomplishment. Our role as a volunteer can also give us a sense of pride and identity. And the better we feel about ourselves, the more likely we are to have a positive view on life.
As Tony Robbins often likes to say “The secret to living is giving”.
There are seemingly endless ways to give back, so why not find the cause that speaks to you and start giving back today.
Last night I made an online order for yarn and a crocheting needle, what about you?
*specific measurements and yarn is needed, it is important to contact Octopus for a Preemie Israel before starting the project.