I'm a quarter of the way through my 100 days! I'm still enjoying the challenge, and have reached the point where I am in habit-building territory. Who knows if by the end of this challenge I'll want to carry on volunteering every day in a habitual way? I certainly think it's healthy to do one good thing every day, and the residual benefits to those you're helping can often go much further than you think - whether it's as simple as going out to get someone's weekly shopping or as serious as talking someone away from a railway bridge.
In the last 25 days, I've worked with 12 different organisations, and have a few more lined-up to work with over the next couple of months. I've clocked-up just under 50 hours so far, which means (clearly) that I'm averaging about two hours a day of volunteering. Every day is different, and might be as little as a 20 minute graphic design stint, to up to four hours on a crisis line. So much variety!
I've learned quite a few things on the way and am ready to get going on the next 75 days. Here's a few snippets...
Positive rhetoric definitely isn't a thing... yet
This really hit me last week when I received a push notification from BBC News letting me know that an estimated one in 10 people across the UK tested positive for Covid-19 antibodies in December, which is roughly double the October figure according to Public Health England. The first thing that occurred to me upon reading this was, 'wow, doesn't that mean that nine out of 10 people DIDN'T test positive for antibodies?' Yes, we're in a pandemic, and yes it's important to emphasise the importance of following the rules so we can minimise infection rates, but would it be so bad for the world to put a positive spin on stories?
It's not to say that by highlighting the positive aspects of a news story we want to lessen the horror this pandemic has caused - it is still an incredibly dangerous virus - but to highlight something positive when we are seeing nigh-on a thousand deaths a day might give people a semblance of hope. Just looking at one of today's headlines, which highlights the tragedy that holidaymakers might have to settle with Bognor Regis instead of going abroad. What is so bad about going to Bognor? Why not change the tone and say 'British seaside towns set for magnificent boom in 2021'. Don't focus on what we can't do, focus on what we can do! I personally love my Weymouth holidays and am desperate to go back there. People holidaying in the UK will provide a shot in the arm to the economy - this is a good thing.
I wonder what might happen if a newspaper were to try writing positive headlines for a day. Just one day. The content within it can still talk about the absolute shitshow we are all living through at the moment, but if the stories were to start with positive messages, I wonder what that would do to help improve the mood of the people who read it?
Temper your empathy, train your compassion
This is a tip directly lifted from Rutger Bregman's book, Human Kind: A Hopeful History and I wanted to share it with you. I cannot recommend this book highly enough - it is like a shot of wheatgrass for the brain (but it leaves a better taste in your mouth and repeats on you in a good way). I actually did recommend this book to all my fellow Shout volunteers, and I was unsurprised to find that it has already been read within the group. You have to read all the way through the book to get to this tip, but the book itself is full of positive stories and studies which prove that humans are naturally compassionate beings. Considering it covers a lot of heavy subjects (Stanford Prison Experiment, Broken Windows Theory, why the Allies bombed Germany so much in WWII) it is an easy read and gives you hope that humans are born kind - not selfish or sinful.
What hit me about this tip in particular is that while it's important to be able to experience a wide range of feelings, but you don't always have to feel everything that someone is going through when you are with them. It's exhausting enough to actively feel your own complex feelings without having to take on the responsibility of external issues. You won't be able to help someone else to the best of your abilities if you're both going through the same things - you just have to be there with them in a compassionate way. This has especially helped me with my Shout volunteering, and compassion really helps you get through the tough shifts, of which there have been a few lately.
Writing everyday makes your brain feel good
I've only been writing everyday for a little over three weeks now, but I'm certainly feeling more lucid in my conversation and I think that I'm getting better at it - you are welcome to disagree with this. I think that regardless of whether or not I decide to carry on volunteering every day, I'd like to carry on writing about each volunteering task I do, because I like how it makes my brain feel. Writing also forces you to think. By committing something to paper (or a blog in this case) you're publicising what you think and going on the record. As long as you can back your opinions up and write in a way that is sensitive to others, you can live in your own world with it and that can be as large or as small as you want it to be.
It doesn't actually matter if anyone is actually reads this - I'm doing it to make myself feel better. That being said, if reading the act of reading this turns even one person into a regular volunteer, I'll be happy.
Social credit is real
Being unemployed is tough when having a job helps you identify and gives you a purpose, and searching for a job when you don't have anything else to keep you occupied can be soul-destroying. I'm still not sure where I'm going to end up at the end of the 100 days, but I am enjoying the journey - just because you don't have a destination doesn't mean you need to impose a travel ban.
I've always believed in social credit. When you do things for other people, they will naturally be more inclined to do something in return when you need a favour. We all have at least one friend who constantly saps from you and never has time for you when you need it (it's the person who always tries to get out of buying a round at the pub, who wants you to give them your staff discount code and never responds to your texts unless they need something from you). If you don't have a friend like that, you might need to take a look in the mirror. There would be fewer of those people in the world if everyone were to adopt an attitude where they don't expect a pro quo to every quid. I'm making a lot of new friends on this journey, and I'm going about this challenge on the assumption that I'll never have to ask anyone I'm helping to return favours, but you never know when you'll need a helping hand - so build credit with others without expecting a return, and they'll be more likely to want to help you when you need it.