A funny thing happened to me on the way to the arena.

What I thought was going to be a simple excursion into youth hockey turned into a full blown commitment of coaching, scheduling, overseeing the website, and being on the board. This on top of all the time taking my kids to practices in the evenings and games all across the state on the weekends. The irony of it all is that I had never even played hockey growing up.

Why then, you might ask, am I taking on such a huge role in my kid's sports interest? Part of it is that I enjoy it. I also welcome the chance to do things with my kids (yes, I have become a hockey player, too, albeit a pretty bad one). The main reason that I became involved, however, is because nobody else was willing to step up and help out.

I can't say I blame them, but this brings up an important question: if not us, then who?

Let me be clear, I am not here to encourage parents to dedicate their lives to their kid's sports program, nor am I saying that their kids should even play organized sports. After all, and it's just a game, right? (Sort of.)

What I am trying to say is that in many areas of our lives, there is a marked decrease in volunteerism at a time when cash-strapped organizations like schools, libraries, and sports programs need them the most. It's not a question of time, because people do have the time, they have simply made a choice.

With that in mind, I'd like to encourage everyone to make a New Year's Resolution to become a volunteer. It doesn't have involve a lot of time, and could simply entail helping out a neighbor or friend. The key is take the opportunity to do some good and donate your time to make a difference.

Here, then, are 10 good reasons to become a volunteer.

  1. Volunteering is a great way to discover an interest. There are a lucky few who have found their passion in life, but for the rest of us, finding this passion is a journey of discovery, and volunteering is a great way to begin that journey.
  2. Volunteering helps us help ourselves. There is a wealth of information out there to support the fact that helping others makes us feel better about ourselves, and self-esteem is something you can never have too much of.
  3. Volunteering teaches kids that the world is bigger than themselves. Children live a sheltered existence, as they should, but having some awareness of the bigger picture helps them to develop character and become better people.
  4. Volunteering gets us off the couch. Do we really need to spend more time watching what celebrities are doing on TV? Volunteering means getting out in the real world and engaging in real events with real people.
  5. Volunteering teaches kids who the real heroes are. It's easy to hear about people doing good deeds on the news, but nothing can replace the real world experience of seeing people donating their time to help others in need.
  6. Volunteering builds stronger communities. Most community activities occur through the hard work of volunteers. Working together brings people, and thus communities, closer together, making them stronger.
  7. Volunteering allows you to spend quality time with your kids. Working with your kids to help your community is an incredible bonding experience and sends a message to your kids that it is worthwhile to help others.
  8. Volunteering teaches us that it's not just about money. Healthy attitudes about money can be learned from volunteering.
  9. Volunteering may help you live longer. There is actually scientific evidence that suggests that volunteering increases longevity.
  10. Volunteering is a great way to network.

From all of us at Parenting Squad, happy holidays and best wishes for the new year.