Our experience as volunteers

by Michelle Warech-Philipson & Gregg Philipson

Instead of considering #volunteering as something one does for other people it is important to think of it as an exchange. It is a sharing of our time in a positive manner and as an exchange of those human traits that bind us together. We can all experience the same feelings. They are the feelings of love, happiness, achievement, excitement, compassion and success. Sadly, we all also can feel pain, sorrow, loss and disappointment. So, as a volunteer or the recipient of the service a volunteer performs, what binds us together? We suggest that other human traits like kindness, the quest for knowledge and a deeper understanding of each other is the answer. We can all learn from one another. We have the opportunity to share the wonderful and sometimes the not so wonderful experiences we have all encountered. We can learn of each other’s histories and what we dream of for ourselves and for our families. We can tell of where we have traveled and how we arrived at this point in our lives. Volunteering is an opportunity for us all to reach out to others and develop and foster new relationships. There is so much to learn from each other.

There are a myriad of reasons that people choose to volunteer. The list is long but we have culled the list to the items we address here today.  share/learn a skill that benefits others  get to know a new community  demonstrate your commitment to a cause/belief  achieve personal satisfaction from your accomplishment  donate your professional skills to help those in need  have a positive impact on those you meet along the way  learn something new that improves your life and the lives of others  help a friend or relative in need because you can  make new friends and learn from them  be an agent of change to improve the lives of others

My favorite experience, volunteering with Power for Parkinson’s was last December just before Christmas when I showed up unannounced in my Santa Claus suit. It was a class Lauren Lewis was conducting. Everyone was happily surprised and no one but Michelle knew it was me. She was surprised to see me nonetheless! I actually startled Lauren and had a “Jolly ole’ time” disrupting the classes exercise routine with my version of the routine. Everyone had a great time and folks were pleasantly surprised it was me. It made everyone laugh and brought me the satisfaction one gets by bringing a lot of joy to others. On a separate note, I believe that I am the only Jewish Santa Claus in Austin. You can view my exciting routine on the Power for Parkinson’s Facebook page. As a #PowerforParkinson’s volunteer, I have been able to experience all of the benefits that one acquires from participating in a meaningful organization. The joy that I feel when I walk into the exercise room and see all the familiar, smiling faces; the contagious energy that I get from all the participants and instructors; the compassion that is shared amongst the participants is so heartwarming. Volunteering for Power for Parkinson's is a “hands on” experience. We are helping to set up the chairs, distributing the equipment and assisting the participants during the exercise routines. It is a very rewarding utilization of my time. Once we are able to resume the classes I would encourage anyone who wants to add joy to others’ lives as well as to your own to please give Power for Parkinson’s a try.

During this current period of social change volunteers too feel the sadness of not being with friends and miss the joy and happiness of giving to others. But fortunately, with new technologies we can all still be a part of each other’s lives. We all want to connect and not be alone (well maybe Michelle wants to, having been cooped up with Gregg this long). Let’s all take advantage of the Power for Parkinson’s on-line classes, and other social media applications that allow us to communicate with ease. This is truly a blessing. We can also all be a blessing to each other. We can’t today, “reach out and touch someone”, as the old ATT advertisement stated but we are all, only a call away. Consider that most people find themselves in need at some point in their lives. So today you may be the person with the ability to help, but tomorrow you may be the recipient of someone else's volunteer effort. Even now, you might be on both sides of the service cycle: maybe you are a tutor for someone who can't read, while at that time you participated in one or more of the many Power for Parkinson’s classes where volunteers were present to assist you.

Regardless of which scenario we find ourselves in today, we are all in the same preverbal boat. Perhaps Herman Melville said it best... “We cannot live only for ourselves. A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow men.” Stay safe. Stay healthy. Stay home. Stay connected with Power for Parkinson’s!!

#Bekind. Kindness is the key to all things good!

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