How Volunteering Can Help the World (And You)

09/07/2015 04:00 pm ET Updated Sep 07, 2016

There are some days when you read the news and, no matter how sincerely you send out your prayers, think positive thoughts, and focus on all that you are grateful for, you still feel pain for those who are suffering. You are desperate to do more, but in the big scope of things you feel helpless. And then from the shadows comes self-doubt, saying: "You can't do anything about it."

If you are operating under less than optimal conditions (exhaustion from trying to make ends meet, tending to your children, or taking care of your aging parents), you will likely lean into this feeling of helplessness and trigger a chain of fears that you are not doing enough, you are not being enough, or that you don't deserve the life you have. If you let that fear take over, you become unable to function at all -- let alone help the world.

Or if you don't get fearful, perhaps you get angry at those who are to blame for all the pain, and the anger takes you down a rabbit hole of darker and darker thoughts.

Sure, you can numb your pain, anger and fear, but that will keep you stuck in a vicious cycle and further prevent you from really showing up and "doing something about it."

That's one cycle.

Then there is this one: You send out your prayers, think positive thoughts, focus on all that you are grateful for, AND you still feel pain for those who are suffering. You embrace it, because you know that we are all part of one human family and that it's normal to feel each other's pain. You know that you feel the pain of every suffering soul because you care and love. And when doubt, fear and anger surface, you don't get stuck -- you lean into the love a little bit more.

You choose to become even more aware of how each of us plays a very significant part. So you go about your day as usual, but you smile more intentionally, hold someone's hand a bit longer, and make choices that are a part of the solution, not the problem. You look for things to do that will truly make a difference.

Where these two cycles meet is volunteering.

There is nothing more healing for someone struggling with fear or lack of self-worth than helping others. And if it's true that the mile-long journey starts with a single step, then helping the world can start with doing something good right now, even if it seems inconsequential.

DOING GOOD IS NOT HARD

I met Megan McInnis, founder of Doing Good, a brand new 501c3 non-profit organization based in Nashville, TN at the 2015 Nashville Film-Com event. I was drawn to her booth by the giant thumbs-up logo supporting the message of Doing Good.

Telling stories of people who are doing good in the world is my cup of tea, and I firmly believe that there can never be too much uplifting and inspirational content in the media. I love stories of real people doing awesome things; especially awesome things that everyone can do, but that we all forget to talk about because they always get overshadowed by big heroic stories which we love, but usually can't duplicate.

Megan's idea behind the television show also named Doing Good is to provide a platform featuring everyday volunteers and their stories, also serving as a resource and encouragement for anyone who doesn't know where to start or who finds themselves feeling that they aren't doing 'enough.'

The idea came out of her own need to be picked up when she had been laid off, recently divorced and was looking for something uplifting to watch on TV. She found nothing. Instead of despairing, Megan stepped into action and researched available domain names, and that's where she found DoingGood.TV.

She moved to Nashville and in the next two years sat down one-on-one with several hundred people, asking them questions about what worked and what didn't work, what they liked and didn't like about volunteering. She listened, she built a team of volunteers, and today her organization offers an extensive database of volunteering resources - for anyone who wants to volunteer, wants to find out more about volunteering or simply doesn't know where to start. She's also developing a TV show.

Megan comes from the world of marketing and PR. She worked for Disney as well as three of the largest non-profit organizations in the country, and along the way she realized that she wanted to focus on the people rather than the organizations themselves.


"We do believe that it's important to know who you are volunteering with and what organizations do what in your local communities, but in all honesty, every community has to deal with hunger and homelessness, and literacy, and more. And so I think that when we come together as a community and we talk about the cause, then frankly we can encourage people to do more."

During our conversation Megan mentions the value of practicing mindfulness in our volunteering. It's easy to feel we are not doing enough because we might not be doing the 'usual' volunteering jobs, like feeding the hungry, building houses or going on mission trips. I, for example, don't think of singing at my church or setting up stage lights for school events as volunteering.

It's important to recognize those people who might not realize that they are volunteering... it's so easy to forget and not think about or not give yourself credit for [it]. We want to highlight people... who are out there making a difference in their own way.

The beauty of it all is an awareness of how our actions serve our world. Because we are all connected as one family, there is no such thing as one volunteering position being 'more important' than another. We all work together, using our unique gifts. And when we show up to help intentionally because we care and love, we do make a difference.

MEGAN McINNIS is an executive director and president of Doing Good, a 501c3 non-profit organization that produces a TV show featuring volunteers who make a difference in other people's lives throughout the world, and who flourish in the enjoyment that comes from giving. Follow or Friend Doing Good on social media @DoingGoodTV.