With so many things competing for our time and attention, we may ask ourselves why would we add volunteering to our ever-expanding list of things to do? Aren’t we all stretched too thin as it is? Wouldn’t it be more prudent to veg out in front of the television and switch our noodles from over drive to off? Perhaps from time to time, that’s not the worst possible approach to getting some rest. But as it turns out, when we isolate from others or inadvertently develop a series of superficial friendships instead of fostering deep and meaningful relationships because we simply don’t have the time to “invest,” we are going against our very nature.
Scientists who use advanced imaging technology to study brain function report that the human brain is wired to reward caring, cooperation, and service. According to this research, just thinking about another person experiencing harm triggers the same reaction in our brain as when a mother sees distress in her baby’s face. Conversely, the act of helping another triggers the brain’s pleasure center and benefits our health by boosting our immune system, reducing our heart rate, and preparing us to approach and soothe. Positive emotions like compassion produce similar benefits.
In 2013, UnitedHealth Group and the Optum Institute found that volunteering or the act of connecting to others in a meaningful way was linked to better physical, mental and emotional health. The report indicated that volunteering strengthens communities and has tangible, as well as measurable health benefits for those that volunteer.
Today, the Junior League of Birmingham, Michigan, Inc. has 133 active members and 235 sustaining members. That’s 368 women who have set about the business of paying it forward – one community project at a time. Along the way, friendships have been forged and communities have been strengthened. It is also a haven for those who wish to grow and expand their knowledge without criticism or judgment. It is a place to become a mentor and to become a mentee. It’s the opportunity for each one of us to explore how we can leave things better than when we arrived. It’s both an individual and collective journey.
And as we go, we might remember that we are standing on the shoulders of many that have gone before. Established in 1901, the Junior League has evolved into one of the oldest, largest, and most effective women’s volunteer organizations in the world, encompassing more than 150,000 women in 292 Leagues in four countries. Although we go about tending to our little corner of the world, we are part of a larger movement to abolish modern-day slavery (human trafficking), combat childhood obesity and involve ourselves in projects that allow us to give others the support they need to make lasting change. In short, you belong to something so much bigger than yourself!
Welcome to the Junior League of Birmingham, Michigan, Inc. It’s a new year! #LeadershipGameOn