Volunteering played a significant role in waking up to my real purpose in life. As a white male that grew up in a lower middle class family, I had wanted for very little. Even though I had my own struggles and dark times, I had never been denied access to things like medical care, education, employment opportunities, or paying my monthly bills. As I entered my thirties, I found a new perspective on all of this.
After graduating with a bachelor’s degree and working the ladder up to the top of Corporate America, I arrived to find that there was no satisfaction awaiting me. I had a large leadership role and was making great money, but I felt empty inside. I quit my job and emptied out my 401k to pursue my own business full time.
That was when I had a wake up call. I went from having money to not being able to pay my bills. I went from having opportunity to having no opportunity. I went from having a purpose to having no purpose. I would look in the mirror every day, determined to never go back to the corporate world. I knew I had a purpose that I was willing to lose everything to find.
That is when volunteering entered my life at such a crucial time. I started reading books and philosophies on how to receive. I realized that receiving was all in equal relation to what I was giving. I had this awakening. “How could I expect my community to give me so much when I was giving it so little?”
I started volunteering for hospice after receiving training. I stayed with individuals as they were approaching death. I would hold their hand, listen, and offer comfort. I started sponsoring a child in Mexico that was in desperate need of financial assistance. I did this when I had no money to spare, but I found a way. Volunteering offered a new way of approaching my community.
Within the next five years, I had volunteered for three political movements, had been offered and accepted three board positions, joined over a dozen community-based committees, and was actively volunteering in efforts to reduce littering and assist with the needs of the homeless in our community.
It’s no coincidence that when I started giving my time away, my own business started growing at lightning speed. Today, instead of worrying about how to pay my bills, I have projects that are scheduled as far as nine months in advance. To understand volunteering is to understand that we are human and we are part of the flow. Sometimes we will be in great need and sometimes we will be able to give greatly.
As we go through different phases in our lives it is important to give when it is time to give and to receive when it is time to receive. Now, I experience both of these principles throughout each day of my life. These experiences have given me personal growth, joy, relationship, and purpose. Volunteering became the cornerstone for a life that I created on my own, and it’s a life that is rich and deeply connected to life here in northeast Indiana.
Stephen J. Bailey is a Fort Wayne native and the owner of PH Digital that was founded in 2006. Based out of the Anthony Wayne Building in downtown Fort Wayne, he specializes in web development, SEO development, social media management, and digital marketing campaigns with numerous companies in northeast Indiana. Stephen loves road trips, sushi, his pups, and spending time on our three rivers.