This may sound strange, but I've always been puzzled by individuals who conduct volunteer work.
You know the people I'm talking about - they range anywhere from that little old lady who volunteers to clean a church to a teenager giving up his or her weekend to feed the homeless.
Honorable deeds, no doubt about it. But I've always wondered what drives a human being to do something for someone else, especially a perfect stranger. To me, it's extremely rare to find someone doing anything out of the goodness of his or her heart. More often than not, it seems to be more about someone feeling better about themselves and the life he or she is leading.
This past weekend, I had the opportunity to put my theory to the test as I volunteered one of my days off for a fundraiser to benefit a family member in need.
My girlfriend joined me, as well as a few other members of my family, to get barbecue plates together and sold in order to help raise money for my stepfather's son. Details of his situation are personal and will remain private, so bear with me if I don't reveal names or specifics.
Our morning began at about 7 a.m., with all of us meeting up at the specified location to wait for the food to be delivered from the Robstown Meat Market. Once the caterer arrived, we began putting the plates together with all of the sides and utensils.
At the same time, other people I did not know began to arrive. I eventually learned that these were family members and friends of the family we were trying to help. Watching the scene and listening to how everyone interacted, my family included, I tried to see if I could gauge the reason for their presence - were they there for themselves or for those in need?
Honestly, I seemed to gauge a little of both. Truth be told, I think it's always been that way. Throughout the day, we all talked about random things and laughed at the silliness of an uncle who's never afraid to draw a laugh out of a group of people.
Before we knew it, the day was ending and it was time to start packing up. A call was made to Loaves and Fishes to pick up leftover items, which they did with remarkable speed. I watched my uncle's face as he helped load the food into the Loaves and Fishes vehicle and listened to his voice as he blessed the driver for the work the organization does in feeding the homeless.
Afterward, I walked into the building and helped to count the money that had been raised, which was going to be taken to the family the following day. I won't reveal the amount, but it was more than anyone anticipated. This brought a few people to the verge of tears.
It was at that moment that I realized I had been wrong about my theory. Not completely, though, only partially.
I think people can have a genuine desire to want to help someone else in need. However, I firmly believe it is a two-way street. By helping someone else, it creates a sense of satisfaction and purpose that you have helped to make someone's life better, even if it is for just a moment.
It's sad that it took more than a decade for me to finally understand this, but I'm glad I was given the opportunity to do so. I'm even happier that I was able to help put a smile on someone's face. For me, it was an experience I'll probably never forget.
For those who do this on an everyday basis, though, it's just a part of life.