When I first started volunteering, I set an intention every time before I volunteered. On one occasion, I was volunteering at a Center for older adults that handed out food and accepted food stamps. That morning, I set the intention that I was going to make the people I served and worked with feel important.
When I got there, I started preparing the food and listening to the instruction I received. I cut the eggs with a plastic knife and the head chef came over to me and told me I did it wrong. He stated that those being served would complain if they had ridges from the plastic knife. With the best of intentions and a desire to make those being served feel important, I told the chef that I would go out and personally apologize to them and inform them that it was my first time there and I used a plastic knife. He seemed surprised and just let it go, and told me to cut it with the other knife.
This was during preparation for lunch. An employee there later told me that he was shocked by this and was certain he would never see me again. I came back after lunch to assist with dinner. He did not believe that I continued to volunteer after that, and I continued because I had an intention. I knew why I was there and I knew what I was doing there. Perseverance comes from setting and intention and following through.
This is the experience that inspired the creation of the service reflection pdf on my company website.
You can download the pdf here:
I will walk you through the importance of each section:
Name, Date, Place of Service, and Hours of Service
Track the basics of service for practical purposes, to make sure you do not overwork yourself, and to remember the value you bring through your intentional service to others.
Set Intention (Before Service)
Setting your intention before service is what will bring mindfulness and a sense of determination to your service. This is so important, because it will guide your interaction with others and also mediate how you frame your experience. Intention inspires courage. Who you are is fluid and your intention frames the way you serve, from your heart and through your hands in service to others.
After service, reflect on whether or not your service was aligned with your intention. If it was not aligned, you may have felt called to serve in a way that felt more true to you and is aligned with your greater purpose; this reflection can uncover your purpose and yield valuable insight on who you are and what you are meant to do.
Contacts and Names to Remember
It can be easy to forget to connect with fellow volunteers or people who you met while volunteering. Connecting with like-minded individuals can bring you a sense of fulfillment. Be brave. Ask others if they would like to connect or stay in touch, and what would be the best platform to do so. Write it down.
When we volunteer, we connect with a greater good and it may inspire us to do more. This could mean donating to a cause, volunteering with a different non-profit, or even just researching something someone brought up. Write down when you have this type of inspiration; there is power there.
Realizations and Gratitude
Gratitude can transform you. Welcome your gratitude and write down what you are grateful for. This will allow for you to give when you can and to accept help when you need it. Realizations come when we are in a flow state and we feel safe. Trust brings realization. When we trust in something greater than ourselves, we uncover realizations that are important lessons for us to remember. Write them down.
Your Personal Experience
Journaling about how you served and what you experienced offers self-awareness and helps you process your experience. You want to process your volunteer experience to combat compassion fatigue, which happens when you give more than you are replenishing (common for helpers).
How Could You Serve Better Next Time?
Asking yourself how you could improve your service brings growth and allows for you to reframe any hard to process feelings. Some volunteer experiences can leave you feeling helpless and as if you couldn’t do any more to help, yet you can always do something. The small things matter and add up to the big things later on. You are powerful, and you are important. Your growth matters. Serve with intention.
If this matters to you, share with someone who loves to serve. Comment your thoughts, and try serving with intention next time. Who already does this?