By Rebecca Washington-Lindsey
“There is no greater calling than to serve your fellow men. There is no greater contribution than to help the weak. There is no greater satisfaction than to have done it well.” – Welter Reuther
At the end of every Sunday evening national broadcast, Lester Holt always concludes with a news story that highlights an uplifting story. It may be a story of someone using their hands to help others, a story about a first responder stepping in, it could be a story about a teacher wiping tears from their students face, it could be a story about a stranger placing a box of food in the trunk of someone who is facing a food deficiency. It could be a story about someone a COVID-19 survivor who decides to donate plasma to someone else needing plasma. Such stories are so beneficial. They are always a breath of fresh air and certainly what our world needs more of. They cause us to search our hearts and lives and respond to the whatever can I do while on Earth to help others. Finally, psychologists contend that helping others is like planting a healthy seed in our lives (it provides mental health) which is important to living. A perfect example of defusing feelings of being “down in the dumps,” whatever that looks like, is volunteering at the Laguna Food Pantry.
Marianna is a retired Liberian and has been volunteering at the Food Pantry for some 10 years. When asked why such a lengthy stay she responded with, “volunteering at the Pantry fulfills my life and I am grateful for the opportunity to serve others.”
Related stories from other volunteers echo Marianna’s. Laguna Food Pantry attracts a plethora from various professions: educators, businesspeople, attorneys, medical, contractors, science, counselors, technologist, and the like. Volunteers are there because they see the value in using their time and skills to help others. Such engagement helps contribute to gaining a sense of meaning and purpose. We know that religion is the primary source of belonging and meaningfulness.
The Laguna Food Pantry’s mission statement is “No one should go hungry.” When COVID-19 entered our world, it changed everything: our daily lives, workforce, health, social, how we worship and more. People became food deficient; the Laguna Food Pantry saw an 80% spike in shoppers. That is where the Laguna Food Pantry and its volunteers stepped up. We paused, took our minds off self, and put our hands and minds together to meet the needs of others. In 2008, a study published by Science found that volunteering raises the level of well-being while lowering depression. Volunteering gives meaning and purpose to life while fostering healthy altruistic behaviors. For example, when it comes to spending money, we like to spend on ourselves, but it is more psychologically beneficial to spend it on others (oops, I lost some readers). You see spending money on others increases the endorphins which promotes “happiness,” after all Booker T. Washington said “those who are happiest are those who do the most for others”. The Pantry needs charitable donations (money or food donations) to keep our doors open. Without money we could not be able to provide our shoppers with nutritional food to put on their table. I believe in eating healthy.
Volunteers at the Food Pantry have a compassion, willingness and are faithful stewards. The Laguna Food Pantry could serve others without volunteers; there are times when we are short-staffed, but we make it work. The Pantry is not a place where one comes to fill their social calendar or look for a date, but it is a place where we are all about the business of serving others, where all are respected, where we work in a spirit of cooperativeness, and a place where we laugh a lot.
Albert Einstein said, “Only a life in the service to others is worth living.” You want to leave a legacy, let it be said that you were a servant in your community and world.
Rebecca is a Laguna Beach resident and former adjunct professor at University of Nevada, Las Vegas.