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By: Ellen Kamaras

For the past five years, I have volunteered at New York Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital (NYP) as a Family Liaison for Surgical Patients and Patient Ambassador. The four hours I spend visiting patients have become the most meaningful and joyful
part of my weekly activities.

Istarted volunteering as a means to discover whether I wanted to study social work. I found myself looking forward to my weekly shift and realized that, on most days, I was getting more than
I gave. Making a patient’s hospital experience just a little bit easier brings me fulfillment beyond compare. When I leave the hospital, I feel grounded, grateful for my health and all the good in my life.
I carry that feeling with me throughout the day, making me a happier and more positive person.

Volunteer and Flex Your Kindness Muscle

Why volunteer? Volunteering is a way to flex your kindness muscle and do hesed. It’s the defining focus of gemilut hassadim, the giving of loving-kindness in personal service to others. Hesed is integrated in the 248 positive commandments we practice, so by volunteering we are displaying a quintessentially Jewish value.

Many retirees choose to volunteer at hospitals and not-for-profits, adding tremendous value to the people and organizations they influence. Outside of work, volunteering helps retirees feel purposeful and fulfilled. Retirees, however, are not the only demographic that volunteers. A 2015 study found that, in the U.S., 35 to 44 year-olds and 45 to 54-year-olds were the most likely to volunteer. Teenagers also had a high volunteer rate.

People feel purposeful when they help others. Dr. Miriam Adahan, a psychologist who founded EMETT ("Emotional Maturity Established Through Torah”) encourages her clients to be spiritual warriors and be “holy.” One way to accomplish this is by performing random acts of kindness. Examples include: donating blood, volunteering as a bone marrow donor, buying a cup of coffee for a serviceman, or letting someone go ahead of you at the supermarket checkout line. Every day, we are presented with endless opportunities to be kind, give of our time, or be a listening ear for others.

Making A Difference

People often say they want to make a difference in the world. What does that mean? They may seek to create a positive change, engage and connect with humankind or use their skills, talents, and time to serve other people. Making a positive change in the world can be as simple as respecting others in our daily interactions. It can also mean really listening to another person when they speak instead of interrupting him.

Volunteering, too, has become a wonderful tool for people of all ages who want to make a difference. Elementary school children routinely visit nursing homes to sing for the elderly residents. High school students visit with sick patients, deliver food to the elderly before Shabbat, or work in a food pantry. Men and women bring their pets to hospitals to cheer sick children in the pediatric ward. Musicians volunteer their time to play music for hospital patients and people with dementia. There is so much good we can do when we look to give without gain.

Developing a New Skill Set

Volunteering also lends itself to the acquisition of communication, leadership, interpersonal and technical skills. For example, while volunteering at a museum, you can learn about art history; while volunteering at a hospital, you can become well-versed in nursing. Volunteer-based internships present the opportunity to confirm a certain career choice. Many high school and college students volunteer at organizations for precisely this reason.

As an added benefit, volunteering has networking potential, connecting likeminded people. There’s something appealingly social about it too, especially for retirees or people who live alone. It’s no surprise that volunteering helps people fight depression and anxiety.

Those who volunteer develop empathy and spend their lives being less judgmental and self-centered. Plus, being altruistic is not as difficult as you might think. Research shows that humans are
hard-wired to be generous, not selfish. Volunteering, then, only enhances our natural predispositions!

Are you ready to do your part to make the world a better place? Go ahead and volunteer your time and talents!

Ellen Kamaras, CPA/MBA, is an International Coach Federation (ICF) Associate
Certified Coach. Her coaching specialties include life, career and dating coaching.
Ellen helps people find their passion, purpose and positivity in life and love.
Ellen can be contacted at (