There is something soul-cleansing about giving service. We can work hard all week chasing our paycheck, or because we feel obligated to give in exchange for what we know we’ll eventually get, but there is still a financial quid pro quo in play. Volunteering is voluntary; we do it because we want to, because of how it makes us feel, and because there is great satisfaction in truly working for others. And, no matter how good we think ourselves, we all innately know the dark corners of our own psyches. Occupying ourselves with service helps push them back.
Believing that I was born for the service of mankind, and regarding the care of the commonwealth as a kind of common property which, like the air and the water, belongs to everybody, I set myself to consider in what way mankind might be best served, and what service I was myself best fitted by nature to perform. - Francis Bacon
We are all uniquely gifted and, for those who serve and protect, those gifts are perhaps especially unique. Nonetheless, are all of your gifts being fully utilized? No one job can fully serve us and we’ll feel unfulfilled – empty even – whenever gifts are left unopened and unused. Volunteering gives us an opportunity to act in ways our work doesn’t. It allows us to tap into rarely used resources.
Are you athletically or musically gifted? Do you have a way with animals, or an ability to teach art or history in a way that captivates others? How about the skilled trades? How could you give back with skills you rarely get to express as a cop, but with which you could serve away from the job? We tend to sink ourselves into our professional vocation while suppressing other aspects of ourselves, and this is sad. What services were you best fitted by nature to perform, and are you acting?
The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others. - Mahatma Ghandi
Maybe the greatest benefit of volunteering for cops is how it takes us out of our comfort zone. That is, we tend to see our service to others as standing between the good others and the bad others. It tends to create a rather black and white dichotomy where people are either victims or offenders, and we mentally categorize them into one or the other of those camps. Many of us then isolate ourselves into a separate police camp, from which we only reluctantly wander.
Volunteering takes us outside of that simple role and puts us in contact with positive people. Volunteers may be naïve to the ways of our world, but they are almost invariably positive. There’s something to be said about being around the hopelessly, unaccountably, unapologetically positive. I like it. They generally like us. Even if they do not, most are willing to suspend judgment by the mere fact you’re stepping up to serve alongside them and will open up to who you are, the world you know, and remain positive because they know you as an individual and not merely as cop. Volunteering opens your mind and world, and your volunteering opens the minds and worlds of those you’ll be working alongside.
Look around. What needs to be done that you can do?