The truth is that volunteering is something foreign, even alien to me. As a person working in the corporate world, where the strive for personal development and achievements is the tool to improve your personal condition, I didn’t understand how doing something without expecting anything in return is rational. Then I thought that maybe this is the idea. “Why does it have to be rational to me or to benefit me, to be useful and fulfilling?”
I am lucky that I know that I am gay from a very young age. We are rational, emotional, compassionate and no-so-much, tall and short, in other words – all sorts of people. I am rational and prudent – I thought that if I plan my coming out from early on, my career and my life will be okay. When I was 17, I was ready to come out to my parents, and I had a job and an apartment lined up. I think that I will never face a calmer response. My mother said “I know” and my father – “Your mother told me” and thus I don’t have an emotional coming out story to tell.
10 years later, all my relatives and friends know, I have changed my employer three times and not only they but my colleagues too, have always been aware of who I am. I had never been rejected, insulted or discriminated against. I think that “If my parents and close ones accept me and I accept myself, nothing else matters.” It has helped me a lot. Either this or I am too cynical :)
I am telling you my story because I realize how lucky I have been. Lucky to have parents that understand and accept me, or at least try, colleagues that appreciate the work that I do, and friends that support me and are happy with and for me. This is where my motivation for becoming a volunteer comes from. There are countless young people that are not as lucky; parents that do not know what is going on with their children; employers that discriminate against different people.
When I am on my shift at the Single Step online chat, I offer support to people in order for them to acknowledge and accept themselves; I help them understand that there are people like them everywhere and they have different stories, some really hard, some easier. I help them understand that no matter who they are, they have the chance of achieving their dreams, or I provide them with useful and important information. No matter how strange I imagined volunteering, when I get up from the computer I feel satisfied… inexplicably satisfied. I also learned that the definition of being successful and useful is not always just one.
Single Step's volunteers are working on the online support chat everyday between 8 pm and 11 pm.