Do Your Part

New smells. New sights. You’re still wearing the same shoes, and you’ve walked around cities before, but everything seems different, fresh, and exciting.

Sound familiar? This is the experience of a tourist, a person doing the same old stuff in a new setting. Whether you’re wandering the gardens of the Alhambra or strolling through Piccadilly Circus, the joy you experience in the moment is coming from doing a very normal activity in a new setting.

Believe it or not, using your unique skills and talents to help a cause close to your heart is actually quite similar. Think I’m crazy? Consider the difference between sitting at your office desk and entering data into a spreadsheet and sitting on your couch, listening to good music with your furry best friend by your side, entering data into a spreadsheet. Either way, you’re entering data, but for obvious reasons doing it at home with your furry friend is much more enjoyable. Now consider entering data at home with your furry friend warming your hip but doing it for a cause close to your heart. That’s creative volunteerism.

I discovered this for myself several years ago when I started volunteering to help needy animals. While editing is not the activity I usually select to fill my leisure time, when I started doing it for books about rescued dogs, it took on a whole new meaning and enjoyment. Now it’s my rock: On the weekends, when I could be doing anything, I choose to sit down in front of the fire with my adopted Boston Terrier and a cup of tea, listen to Pandora Radio, and get lost in editing for hours. During these times I’m a ‘teerist in an unfamiliar land, wholly occupied by a mundane activity that is suddenly fun and fulfilling.

I won’t make you sit through a slide show of me editing books on my couch like your great aunt did the last time she visited your sister in Ohio, but I would like to ask you to take a few seconds to consider what creative volunteerism could mean to you. What are your skills and hobbies? How can they be used for your cause?

I recently asked these questions of myself and realized that my hobby, aerial fabric (think Cirque du Soleil), could also be used to forward my cause, which is educating the public about puppy mills. At first it seemed like a stretch (both literally and figuratively), but when I realized that my performances are something the people find memorable, I decided to choreograph an aerial dance to a slide show about puppy mills and creating change.

You know what happened? People remembered it, wrote about it, and shared information about it with their friends. It gave me the opportunity to further my cause, create new friendships, and make something I enjoy even more meaningful.

The point is that no matter your skills, you can use them to create change and make a difference for an organization close to your heart. That’s creative volunteerism. Here are some examples: A yoga teacher offers free relaxation classes for foster and transport volunteers for rescue organizations; a bookkeeper volunteers several hours a month to input a rescue organization’s accounting information; a public relations specialist helps put out press releases, tweets, and Facebook posts for a local charity.

Give creative volunteerism a try! You’ll find ‘teerism to be less expensive and at least as memorable as London tourism, and at the end of the day, you won’t have sore feet.

Check out the Mill Dog Manifesto for more information on volunteering.

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