Adventures in Community Service

There are numerous volunteer organizations that we can join, or different ways that we can give back, but how many of us actually give up our time to make a difference?

On a recent trip to Costa Rica, I had the opportunity to do many fun-filled activities including, white water rafting, zip lining above the rainforest canopy, soaking in hot springs, hiking up a volcano and doing yoga.  Costa Rica offered me a lot of new adventures as well as connections to an interesting diverse group of people; but it also offered me a different type of activity, a community service opportunity, that at first I declined to decline.  My immediate thought was that I wanted to have fun and do my own thing, but after some contemplation, I changed my mind.  It was a decision that changed my views about life and the importance of giving back.

My yoga group had been given the opportunity to paint a local’s house in exchange for a homemade Costa Rican meal, made and prepared by the owner of the home. Although I have painted the inside of my own home on several occasions, I had never painted the exterior of a house and immediately felt overwhelmed.

We all piled into a mini van and traveled for miles on rugged dirt covered roads to a nearby village, where we parked outside of our destination, a dilapidated blue house desperately in need of new paint.  We jumped out of the van and covered ourselves with plastic rain coats as we split into groups and started painting different areas of the house.  I chose the side of the house that had a large termite nest on it. The paint was watery, thin and runny.  We painting all day in the moist, humid rain, and even painted around the large termite nest, per instructions of the owner!

At the end of the day, when we had finished painting, the owners invited us in, where they prepared a wonderful, tasty meal of rice and beans, followed by some freshly brewed Costa Rican coffee.  We then heard their personal stories.  The man whose house that we had painted, had been severely injured one day as he walked along the roadside and a large metal rod fell off a passing truck, causing him significant injuries.  Since then, he had been unable to work.  I felt grateful that I was able to help him, a complete stranger in need, who had no health insurance and no means of providing for himself or his family, other than to rely on friends, family and neighbors.

With full bellies and heartfelt goodbye’s, we all piled into the mini van and headed back to our resort, as I sat in contemplation about how I almost turned down this opportunity to help someone in need, and if I had, I would have never had known how gratifying it was to give back to community.

You don’t have to travel to Costa Rica to help someone in need, but you can start right where you are!  Sometimes the smallest gestures can make the biggest difference in someone’s life. There are also many organizations that specialize in specific areas of needs, so whatever your passion is, there is a volunteer group out there waiting for your help.  If you’re not ready to join, then you can give back through random acts of kindness, a smile, a thank you, a kind word…

Be open to giving, you never know how you can change someone’s life or make a difference. It’s a win-win situation!

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