As Michael Buble says in his song entitled Cold December Night, they call this the season of giving. You see hundreds of Salvation Army collection tins and hear the bells everywhere. Most people feel the pull to give what they can to those in need especially this time of year, but giving means so much more than donating money between Halloween and New Year’s Day. We can also give our time and talents. Here are books that will motivate you to volunteer all year round.
1. Mother Teresa: An Authorized Biography by Kathryn Spink
This Albanian-born woman, who won a Nobel Peace Prize and was named the Jewel of India in 1980, Mother Teresa, advocated for the poor and homeless, ministered to the sick, provided hospice for the afflicted, and embodied the very essence of humanitarianism. Her critics said that she didn’t fix the problems of homelessness or poverty, but she communicated love and humanity in her individual dealings with those she served. She said, “I see God in every human being. When I wash the leper’s wounds, I feel I am nursing the Lord himself. Is it not a beautiful experience?” Many suffering people need to feel love in addition to having their needs met. She did both.
When I think of Mother Teresa, I think there is no way I could ever be like her. But despite her great accomplishments around the world, many of her sayings encourage people to do small things wherever they are. She said:“We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.”
2. When the World Calls: The Inside Story of the Peace Corps and Its First Fifty Years by Stanley Meisler
The Peace Corps, a US government organization for volunteers established in 1961, has had 220,000 volunteers in 141 countries since its creation. The organization works to improve the world in many areas, such as medical treatment and education, general education, professional training, environment protection, and increasing access to technology. This book about the history of the Peace Corps looks at both the facts and the consequences of the people who sacrifice time and means to aid developing or Third World countries. The author reveals the political manipulation and scandals that the bureaucratic side of the Peace Corps has faced in the past and the sometimes negative or dangerous circumstances volunteers endure.
Despite the Peace Corps’s imperfect past, Meisler also says, “The strength of the Peace Corps has always depended on the energy and commitment of the volunteers.” The author shares success and inspirational stories of hardworking, caring volunteers and the people whose lives they improved through their service, including former Peruvian President Alejandro Toledo.
3. How to Be an Everyday Philanthropist: 330 Ways to Make a Difference in Your Home, Community, and World – at No Cost! by Nicole Bouchard Boles
I’m sure we all have felt that we can’t make a big difference in the world. I probably won’t join the Peace Corps, as noble an organization as it is. I probably won’t leave everything behind and become a nun, like Mother Teresa, as admirable as her service was. But I can donate my old clothing to my local crisis center for abused women. I can participate in charity walks or runs. I can give blood. I can plant a garden or a tree. I can clean up a park. I can donate my old cellphone to an organization that provides phones to abused women as a safety lifeline.
This book floods readers with ideas for service and volunteering that cost nothing or little to do. After reading this book, there is no excuse for not doing something to help someone in need. Somewhere in this book, we are bound to find services that fit our schedules, budgets, and skill sets. She makes it that easy! We may not be able to change the world, but our service could mean the world to the person whom we help.
Since this book was published back in 2009, check to make sure companies still support the programs she mentions. (Plus, you can also check online too!
4. Dogtripping: 25 Rescues, 11 Volunteers, and 3 RVs on Our Canine Cross-Country Adventure by David Rosenfelt
This book recounts the author’s road trip, which he expected would result somewhere between Lewis and Clark and the Donner Party, with 25 dogs in 3 RVs from Southern California to Maine. As you might assume, hilarity ensues. This crazy road trip also began a journey that has become a rescue dog foundation called the Tara Foundation. Through the Tara Foundation, the author and his wife have placed thousands of dogs in loving homes.
Rosenfelt’s genuine love for dogs–particularly the charity’s namesake, the quirky and sensitive Tara–is clear from page one. No one who feels neutral about animals would eventually take up to 42 dogs at one point to rescue them.
5. Giving: How Each of Us Can Change the World by Bill Clinton
Former President Clinton highlights meaningful acts of service, big and small, that he has witnessed throughout his life. Some are participants in the Clinton Foundation, others are Nobel Peace Prize winners, and others are normal citizens who decide to act and give. One of these is a six-year-old girl who put together a drive to clean up her local beach. The author says that although strong governments can increase the income levels of its citizens and obviously improve some circumstances for its people, it is the citizens organizing and acting to benefit each other that leads to real, lasting change and improvement.
The point of this book is to encourage everyone to find a way to give. Regardless of your income, economic status, time constraints, or skills, you can serve others.
6. What Helped Get Me Through: Cancer Survivors Share Wisdom and Hope by Julie K. Silver
At first glance, this book might not seem to motivate you to volunteer. Cancer is one of those situations where it is hard to do much to fix or change anything. But there are things others can do for cancer patients. These days it seems everyone knows or is related to someone battling cancer, and the author includes chapters entitled, “How My Family Helped,” “How Friends Made a Difference,” and “What Would Have Helped but Was Too Hard to Ask For.” Many hospitals have volunteer programs, in which patients suffering from all ailments, including cancer, can benefit from your service, as simple as it may be. Some hospitals also allow you to collect and compile care kits for kids undergoing chemotherapy. You’d be surprised how small gestures of love mean a lot to someone who is struggling against disease.
What books about volunteering would you recommend? How do you serve others and give back?
YouTube Channel: The Volunteer Center
Featured image via Coalitions Work