Contributing to a cause bigger than yourself adds value to others and the one volunteering too. Picture: Supplied.

Volunesia – (noun) that moment when you forget you’re volunteering to help change lives because it’s changing yours.

Contributing to a cause bigger than yourself adds value to others and the one volunteering too.

While I don’t believe it is evident at the start, the lessons are abundant when you open your eyes and mind to the opportunities presented.

Working (for free) with a diverse range of peers is not only quite rewarding, but it teaches, through experience, the navigation of diversity.

There are circumstances I’ve been faced with that, while challenging, have proven to be incredible growth opportunities.

While study is one way of understanding the theory behind why a particular move should be made, it is only during lived experiences that the lesson is cemented.

I love to learn through observation, and I enjoy taking action guided by intuition and experience cemented by theory. All to fulfil my ‘why’.

I’ve spoken to several volunteers in recent weeks in an attempt to understand their ‘why’.

My curiosity is driven by a desire to continue piecing the puzzle of life together, and one thing I found quite fascinating was the understood benefit to the volunteer that they’d discovered while they were busy changing the lives of others.

There is no doubt in my mind that I am the person I am today professionally because of what I’ve learnt and experienced in a volunteer capacity.

What I find most intriguing is the drive behind the work, especially when, at times, it can be tricky to navigate a committee or group, especially when it’s filled with conflict or differing opinions.

When we’re in paid employment, it can be easier to tolerate and navigate an unpleasant culture because you’re being paid to be there.

But when this happens in the volunteer world, pure passion drives a person to tolerate and navigate a tricky set of circumstances.

Each one of us has quirks that others don’t enjoy.

Some of us rub people the wrong way, and some of us cannot reflect on personal shortcomings to make a change or improve, and it’s left to other volunteers to navigate this respectfully and constructively, which is a big ask.

There is no particular group, club or organisation that I’m referring to specifically; this is a simple reflection on years of observations and an attempt at articulating the difference in drivers and tolerance for each scenario.

One thing that upsets me the most is when a group of passionate volunteers work together but, behind closed doors, begin gaslighting and gossiping about each other.

In my typical style, I only focus on what is within my control, and what’s within my control in this scenario is to ensure I don’t engage in these activities and address them if necessary.

You can’t put a price on the amount of passion and purpose some volunteers contribute to this world.

It’s a priceless contribution that paying employers could only dream of getting their hands on.

In recent weeks, one particular moment in my volunteer journey has changed my life forever.

It was a moment at the end of a series of events spanning many days with a group of young people where I realised my world was changed forever because of the three of them.

I realised that my actions and words had positively influenced their lives for the rest of their days, not just for the moments we were together.

But what smacked me in the face harder was what they’d unintentionally taught me.

My life and outlook will be different forever as a result, and that’s the power of volunteering.

“We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future.”

The quirks that make up the diversity of all groups need to be viewed as an asset and not a threat.

Imagine if humans were wired to see the beauty in everything rather than the danger or fear, like a child, where everything can be awe and amazement.

And like Busby Marou sang, ‘Everything is beautiful’.

While we can’t expect people to change to conform, we can embrace diversity.

Diversity in thinking, experience, culture, likes, dislikes etc.

Diversity isn’t an image; it’s a way of being.

It’s the acceptance that we’re all unique, and without our differences, the world would be a boring place.

I, for example, might be too much for some and not enough for others, and that’s ok because I know myself and welcome feedback from those I trust and respect.

I know the value I bring to the projects I commit to, and while I’m disappointed by snickers and gossip, I’m not surprised.

This a gentle reminder to always be aware but not beware.

As we scream towards that time when our streets are lined with core flutes and our marketing is political, keep in mind that “Volunteering is the ultimate exercise in democracy.

You vote in elections every few years, but when you volunteer, you vote every day about the kind of community you want to live in.” – Marjorie Moore.