What My Mother Taught Me – The Legacy of Volunteering

Dianne Belli, Executive Directior, Institute for Healthy Aging at Keiro

What is the legacy that your mother left to you?  What words of wisdom are you leaving for your daughter? 

 Recently, my daughter shared an incident that occurred at the law office where she works.  She assists a solo practitioner attorney who occasionally becomes overwhelmed by the sheer number of files zooming around the office.  On this particular day, he was looking here and there for a particular file, and my daughter told him, “My grandma says when you lose something, you have to look seven times.”  And of course, by the third time they looked for the file, it was found…on his desk.

A few weeks later, a Sansei friend of mine was listing the essential things that she taught her two daughters – one of these essentials was to be able to cook rice without a rice cooker.

In thinking about what mothers teach daughters, I came across the website for Volunteer San Diego, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that directs capacity-building programs and services that engage volunteers in working hand-in-hand with nonprofit agencies to develop strong and vibrant communities.  Michelle Panik is a volunteer Blogger for Volunteer San Diego and she wrote as follows:

My mom taught me how to read. She taught me how to roller-skate. And how to make perfect spritz cookies (her secret? keep the dough chilled). She also taught me the value of volunteering.

It happened through Girl Scouts. In 1954, my mom joined a troop in the San Fernando Valley. When I was growing up, she’d tell me stories of her years as a Scout, which included her troop’s visits to a boys’ orphanage. They’d bring cookies or cupcakes and socialize with the boys.

In 1986, I became a Brownie Girl Scout in Orange County. For the next 12 years, I would learn as much in Scouting as I did in school.

  • As a camp cook, I learned that singing along with the Beastie Boys while stirring scrambled eggs makes them fluffier.
  • As a wheelchair tennis tournament ball girl, I learned the rules of tennis.
  • As a hospital Christmas caroler, I learned that enthusiasm matters more than pitch.
  • As a summer camp counselor to girls with developmental disabilities, I learned that everyone deserves a chance.

Everyone knows that in volunteering, you’ll help others feel good about yourself. But here’s the secret benefit: you’ll have a blast and remember it for the rest of your life.

“Volunteer San Diego” can help you find the perfect service project.

Perhaps, one day, you’ll be able to tell your daughter about the time you brought home-baked cupcakes to boys living in a makeshift home.

Michelle is correct in that one of the secret benefits of volunteering is the enjoyment, but we know that another of the secret benefits is what volunteering can do for your health.  The Corporation for National & Community Services has found that study after study demonstrates that volunteers have lower mortality rates, greater functional ability, and lower rates of depression.

And this is exactly the reason that the volunteer program at Keiro is part of The Institute for Healthy Aging at Keiro (IHA).  IHA’s mission is to promote the healthy aging of our community, and what better way than to encourage, support, and advance volunteerism for the good health of individuals and the community as a whole?

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