When Your Heart Smiles, You Know It's Right

The hallmark of volunteering is that it must be something that fulfills you. The moment you volunteer, not out of passion but to please someone else, your drive would crash faster than a flashlight.

It’s been a year and more than three months since I began volunteering as Plogga at Plogging Nigeria, an organization that is concerned with getting rid of body and environmental wastes. The journey so far has been different sets of emotions from fulfilling, challenging, saddening, infuriating, and even stressful. There were times I fell out of love with them and took temporary French leaves at will until I felt the yearning to go back to what I loved doing. At times like that, it was passion, love for nature, and peace of mind that pushed me back on my feet. There are persons who feel awkward at social gatherings. They try to mingle with others and relive splendid memories, even when their cycle does not feel as goofy as them. When attitudes turn south, it affects them in the deepest of ways you can imagine causing them to withdraw, shut down sometimes. Knowing that I am that kind of person, I avoid social gatherings as much as possible. In fact, after attending the first Plogging Episode, as they are called, I asked myself if I really wanted to be associated with Plogging Nigeria because there were people in it. The anxiety was building as I thought about what my decision should be; true, I had a good time, but there were people there. People.

This is what the first Plogging Episode was like:

It would be the first time you were coming out for a large event in school, the first time you were participating in any social event in Nsukka. You would bite your lower lip as you watch bodies of all sizes rise from the ground and return in quick seconds, as quick as your heart was beating. Should you join them? Would you look ridiculous? Oh! You would decide to stand behind the crowd and watch them stretch their bodies while you joined them in spirit. In there, nothing mattered anyway. You were always your best self. You would scoff at the gym master who instructed the crowd. No, he doesn’t look ridiculous, he just looked awkward. You would fold and unfold your arms as you turned round to take a look. All the materials needed for the Clean-Up were getting assembled finally but that fact only skyrocketed your impatience. Why wouldn’t they start already? You turn sharply to see that other onlookers like yourself were joining the crowd to stretch their bodies. You rub your shoulders and decide to join them too, it wouldn’t turn out so bad, hopefully. Still, behind the crowd, you let the music enter your veins so that your legs begin to move and you let yourself up into the air.

You were right, it didn’t turn out so bad and you even felt lighter. You were even laughing, laughing hard. You moved faster than your group, you didn’t even know they were there anymore. It felt like you were on the field, running for the star prize. You ran for each trash, pet bottles before anyone could. You snatched them like a child, you looked like a happy child until you spent all your strength. It ended soon enough before you got too weary. The waste bags were arranged and you couldn’t stop yourself from saying “WOW.” The sight was marvelous, too marvelous to find mere words to express what you felt. Calm rushed into your veins and you felt like lying in the grass. It was too beautiful. When pictures from the event were sent to you, you felt like crying. This was something you would want to do, you had found a home, something you loved. You itched to share a high five with someone at the venue for a job well done. All the worries of how effective the program would be on the community that plagued your mind at the beginning, faded into thin air then. If it had such an effect on you, it should do the same on others. You smiled at how peaceful your heart was, you were fulfilled. Plogging was for you.

The hallmark of volunteering is that it must be something that fulfills you. The moment you volunteer, not out of passion but to please someone else, your drive would crash faster than a flashlight.

Upon joining them, I recognized a few faces there but when I returned for the next Plogging episode, none of those faces were there. But I continued to go, despite not seeing those faces. This is possible because I loved what they were doing, not who and who was there or not. When Luiza talked about The 10 Commandments of How to be a Good Volunteer, she mentioned that a good volunteer is always committed, proactive, and lives the experience. While she formally stated the right things, she didn’t place so much emphasis on the core of volunteering; Passion. Passion is defined as a strong feeling or emotion. Your primary motive for volunteering should be having Passion to make an impact in a particular field. This is 60% of the fuel you need to drive a successful career as a volunteer. Without it, you would face countless drawbacks like a farmer who goes to the field without her tools. It is Passion that helps you ignore attitudes that arise to dampen your mood and make you lose interest in the effort. It is Passion that helps you bounce back, every time. It is Passion that pushes you to set goals in your effort and achieve them.

There are lots of efforts where you can become a volunteer. There are 17 Sustainable Development Goals set by the United Nations from which you can pick one which resonates with your passion. When passion is the bedrock of your volunteering effort, I cannot overemphasize how fulfilling that journey would be for you. I have no intentions of leaving Plogging Nigeria soon. Despite the presence of other human beings and their inputs that tend to make the endeavor stressful for me, it is the peace and love for the environment that keeps me going. Surely, you shouldn’t ignore your mental health in everything you do. That is why you can take breaks, but passion will help you bounce back. If there’s no passion there, your efforts will fall through like water in a basket. Should I call these Ruminations at 5? LOL, I was moved to share my views on Volunteering after listening to my friends struggle with their emotions which were affected by others during their effort. Volunteering is a beautiful thing and should be embraced by everyone. Find what you love and offer voluntary services, free or paid, there. Love is service and the best form is volunteering.

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