Better Living Through Volunteering

Blog Author Joe Bowen

Written by: Joe Bowen

Published: August 11, 2015

Found in: About Us, Community, News/Press

I'm generally a pretty anxious person, but I've always been even more anxious around children. Historically, I freeze up around them and have no idea how to act. It wouldn't be unusual for me to meet a friend's son or daughter and stiffly reach out for an awkwardly formal handshake, followed by an overly polite "It's a pleasure to meet you, young man/woman." I could never figure out what children were thinking or why they act the way they do.

Last year, in an effort to break out of my comfort zone, I began volunteering at a local elementary school, having no idea what they would ask me to do. One of the fourth grade teachers quickly and gratefully put me to work helping students with math, one-on-one. I remember thinking, "Am I qualified for this?" Thankfully, fourth grade math still (mostly) came easy to me. Teaching, however, did not. Helping kids learn is not easy...not at ALL. It's REALLY hard.

However what was initially very frustrating became the highlight of my week once I got to know the students (and they got to know me). Since I worked with the same handful of kids each week, I learned what motivated and interested them. They were always excited to work with me because it allowed them a break from the classroom and a different approach to the various lessons. It didn't hurt that I shared a common language with them, since I'm well-versed in cartoons, comic books, and video games.

Dealing exclusively with struggling students, I found it especially gratifying when the lightbulb went off for them and they finally understood a difficult concept. Even though they were having a hard time, these kids genuinely wanted to learn and improve. Helping the kids learn actually served as a form of meditation, since it required concentration and patience I'd never utilized before. Afterwards I was typically mentally exhausted, but also incredibly relaxed.

Through volunteering I found that children embrace change and they are inspired by new experiences and ideas. This in turn inspired me. WSECU actively encourages all of their employees to volunteer in the communities and I could not be more supportive of this philosophy.

Joe Bowen