Office Visit: The Benefits Of Volunteering

From the time I was a young child, I was fortunate to learn firsthand the importance of helping others.

My father was a police officer and, at that time, many social services were not available in our small town. Police officers, like my dad, often volunteered to help individuals in need. It was not uncommon, for example, for my parents to provide a warm meal or temporary shelter to people and animals. To this day, my parents still receive a Christmas card every year from a family in Mexico that stayed with us for two weeks after they were robbed.

In addition to witnessing my parents’ kindness and generosity, I also volunteered at a home for orphans as a Girl Scout. Through that eye-opening experience, I gained a deeper appreciation for my own family and a greater respect for the ability of individuals who come from difficult situations to rise up and lead productive lives.

Decades later, volunteering is still an important part of my life and has helped shape who I am personally and professionally.
I recently read an article discussing why volunteering is also good for businesses. According to the article, encouraging co-workers to volunteer with outside organizations helps in the recruitment and retention of top talent and leads to happier co-workers. Research also shows that volunteering improves a person’s leadership, communication and other professional skills, which may help them advance in their careers.

In my own career, volunteering has made me a better leader with less tunnel vision, meaning I don’t see things only through the lens of the health care field in which I work. It has also helped me have a better understanding and more empathy toward the people we serve.
Many years ago, I remember asking the chairman of the board at a hospital I worked for why he devoted so much time and energy to the hospital in a volunteer capacity. His response has stuck with me all these years later: “I have a good life and this is my way of paying rent on this Earth.” I encourage others to “pay rent” by donating your time and talents as a volunteer within your community and by encouraging loved ones and co-workers to do the same.

Di Smalley is regional president of Mercy in Oklahoma.
This article originally appeared in The Journal Record.

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