10 things I learned about being a volunteer at a homeless shelter

I volunteer at a homeless shelter/food pantry. They offer lots of other services but those are the two most popular ones. If you have never done this before you really have your eyes opened to many things. I wanted to share the most important things I have learned from this experience.

  1. Volunteer at a Pet shelter. 10 things I learned about being a volunteer at a homeless shelterGoodness of people. It is really heartwarming to see other volunteers, people who donate, and the fact that these safety nets exist for people. I thank President Lyndon Johnson and everyone who created the Medicare, Food Stamps, Head Start and other programs that give people a “hand up”. It is inspirational to be part of something that you know is making a real difference in people’s lives.
  2. Unexpected benefits for volunteers. As a volunteer you may feel that your time might be wasted just doing manual labor when anyone can do it. The fact is that very few people do it. Non profits really do appreciate every volunteer they get. You are thanked almost everyday when you come in. Even if you don’t get thanked by management, you always get thanked by those you serve. The most sincere thank you I have ever received have been from people who had hard times and the little that I did made all the difference for them.
  3. More unexpected benefits. Volunteering is almost a selfish choice when you think about it. Where else are you going to be taught skills, gain experience, and feel good for free? Many jobs promise on the job education, but very few have meaningful educational opportunities. If you are lucky you might get a job that has online education, but that is not for everyone. Almost everyone can learn from the hands on education volunteering provides. I could easily write another column about all the specific skills that I have learned just in doing what are deceptively looking “simple” jobs. Even if you are an expert in the work they want you to do, you will learn something.
  4. Connections with people. You can’t volunteer and not make connections with people. Just like LinkedIn or other forms of networking, it’s not always obvious how those connections will benefit you. In fact, I’d argue that if you look at networking as what is going to benefit you, you are doing it wrong. Connecting with people is often showing them that you value their expertise and skill, and that perhaps you can be of service to them. As I have approached people with this attitude, I have been very lucky that people appreciated the resource I can be in my specific niche.
  5. Exercise. Whatever your form of exercise you currently do, you are certainly going to get more exercise when you volunteer. Almost every non-profit needs people who can do hard work as well as mental things. I was surprised what happened to me. I developed a six-pack which I never had before. More importantly than that however, is that you feel good doing something physically different from what you are used to in your job.
  6. You exercise your compassion and empathy. In almost every realm of life people struggle and have difficulties. You can’t avoid it. When you are helping people you can listen and be there and be a positive force even without saying self-help mumbo jumbo. I had one teacher tell me once that you can improve people’s day just by being positive and who you are. So I would smile and maintain my equilibrium and as much as possible open my heart to the world. Yes you do get hurt, but its a much easier and happier place to be than being closed off.
  7. Your perspective changes. It is hard to go back to your private apartment and the hundred things you take for granted and not feel gratitude. It would be very easy for any of us to have the problems than others have. Maybe some of our life and success is due to our choices, but a larger part seems to be luck. Our genetics, location, so many things determine the scale of our quality of life. Life isn’t fair, but we have many things that we can be grateful for even with that unfairness.
  8. Stop consuming artificial garbage and instead value reality. I find it fascinating how people talk about how our values are being warped by the media, yet watch the media and entertainment anyway. TV/Internet and other forms of entertainment have hypnotized people into accepting things that are not helpful for them to believe. I am certainly guilty of this. Too often we judge people by their external self, instead of who they are. We don’t treat people as individuals, but rather stereotyped examples of a group. We need to stop and live our lives based on our values as we examine them.
  9. Nothing lasts forever. People who have problems solve their problems. People who are rich become poor, become rich. Life is constantly in flux. Nothing stays the same forever. We have to let go of our human desire to control that which we can not control. We can only control our self, and that is all we need to focus on.
  10. Enjoy the moment. We only have the moment, and our future is uncertain. You can certainly plan for the future, but you have to focus on the moment. If you can be present with everyone you are talking to, and just focusing on them and listen, you will have done the greatest thing that you can do in life.

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Reinstalling a computer every 3 years good idea

I bought a MacBook Pro in 2012 and it has seen a series of upgrades. It came with 10.9 and since then has been upgraded to 10.11.2. A few days ago I started to see screen corruption where parts of the background or “desktop” would increasingly get more distorted the more I used it. Since there is not an easy way to change the display “driver” like you would do in Windows I had to think how to fix this problem.

I could of course have thrown away preference files, spent time googling it, and really got down to the nitty-gritty. I also had another option. I could just reinstall the computer. Microsoft says that as a best practice a Windows computer should be reinstalled every year from a clean state. Meaning totally format the drive and reinstall everything. Almost no one does that. Some business come close in not allowing their users to save changes to their computer, but it’s not the same.

I decided to reinstall my computer to fix this problem. I had tried lots of software since I help customers with things, and in general it had gotten unusually slow on the internet. After I formatted the drive and reinstalled from scratch, it has gone back to its usual snappy and fast Mac self. The screen corruption is gone, and the battery life is even longer.

The point of me writing this, is to say that if a computer Mac/Windows has not been reinstalled in 2 or more years and you are having weird problems, its best to just reinstall everything. Yes it does require a computer person, or taking some time to learn how to do it, but it is the best use of your time. In addition to fixing the main issue, it often fixes other issues you don’t know about. Malware/Virus and other junk also frequently are on computers and many popular protection programs do not protect the computer enough. By getting rid of the bad junk on your computer, you are also helping those friends and family that you share files and information with. Many times many surprising issues are fixed by re-installation.

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