By Nate Russell, volunteer contributor, American Red Cross
As many of you know, April 10th through 17th is National Volunteer Week, where we celebrate the act of volunteering and acknowledge the efforts of others who selflessly give to their community.
I’d like to take this opportunity to tell you my own personal story, and how I, only relatively recently, dove headfirst into volunteering, and how it has drastically changed the landscape of my life.
Two years ago, I was a bartender at a major league stadium, and had been for three years at that point. I bumped elbows with celebrities. The location of my bar gave me a front row view of every single game.
But there was always something missing. I went home every single night feeling unfulfilled. I didn’t love what I did; I was merely comfortable with it. But then I stopped and looked around and realized what was making me so unhappy. I wasn’t making anyone else’s life better except for my own.
So I made a decision—a rash one, but as of yet the best decision I’ve ever made in my life. I gave up my car, my apartment, my paycheck, and just about everything I owned to join a national service program called AmeriCorps. For all of 2015, I and a team of nine other strangers my age hopped in a van and did work for FEMA and the American Red Cross with an ideal of “Getting Things Done for America”.
We worked, ate, slept, drove and exercised with the same group of people day in and day out with no expectation. And I loved every second of it.
For the first time, I actually felt fulfilled by what I did. There was an overwhelming sense of value in our duties, and it instilled in me a sense of serving others that carried beyond my first year of service.
No more than a month after graduating from the program, the day-after-Christmas tornadoes hit North Texas. During my day job, I called one of the Red Cross contacts that I had made over the year and asked if there was anyone I could contact to help. Within an hour, I received a phone call asking me to manage a shelter in DeSoto.
From the very start, volunteering has changed my life completely, taken me places I never would have expected to go, and has led me on an incredible journey that is far from over. I learned that the feeling of warmth that comes from helping someone in need is far more valuable than anything you can put a price tag on.
While a life-changing leap is what set my story in motion, there are many more equally impactful ways to make a difference in your life and the lives of those around you. There are over 6,000 volunteers who put on the Red Cross logo every single day across North Texas.
You can join us, here.