Much like the gym, (for me) the hardest part of volunteering is getting there. And yes, the difficulty I speak of includes torturing myself by watching Rachael Vs. Guy Celebrity Cook-Off and other Food Network shows from the treadmill.
Although working out and volunteering may have little else in common, the two make me feel good about myself (unless I'm jogging next to Fergie's body double or a model from The Face). But I digress... and by doing so, I realize I watch too much TV at the gym.
After college graduation and before securing a job in New York City, I spent my summer days applying for jobs and volunteering with my grandma at a soup kitchen. My tasks were simple: peeling fruit, repackaging bread and pouring juice into cups. Each week my responsibilities would change, but my most fashionable MacKenzie-Childs apron and smile remained.
The mornings were early and the days were long. Sometimes more than 80 people (including small children and infants) would be in attendance, meaning we served the same amount of meals. Mothers and fathers would take prepackaged goods home to get their families through the week ahead. Occasionally, male diners proposed marriage to me.
Each time I left the venue, like departing from the gym, I was utterly exhausted (cue afternoon catnap). Parting my well-fed friends, I said my goodbyes with hidden yawns and without an engagement ring.
It's been a short while since I've been back -- not because I dread my alarm blaring at an ungodly hour or because I fear the commitment of monogamy. It's because I live a great distance from the soup kitchen. Like I said, the hardest part is getting there.
Luckily, there are other community service organizations and charities in the city (like Harboring Hearts as well as New Yorkers for Children) and opportunities to give back (even if it be clothing donations to local shelters). Personally, I prefer to donate my hair.
Fortunately and unfortunately, there are thousands of organizations that can use helping hands. Some require more time, strength and commitment than others, but in the end, they exist to benefit people's lives.
Another thing about volunteering: like exercising, a little each week goes a long way.
Follow Hilary Sheinbaum on Twitter: www.twitter.com/hilary_she