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If it’s still in your mind, it is worth taking the risk.

Paulo Coelho

Several years ago my end-of-year routine was to reflect upon my goals and roles for the year ending and decide on one or two goals to work on in the new year.

In January 1999 I resolved to do some volunteer work.  Exactly what I would volunteer to do I didn’t know.

It was toward the end of January when I ran across a piece in my local newspaper that, after casually reading, I simply could not get out of my head.  It was a call to action of sorts for me.  It was connected to that volunteering desire that I had just at the turn of the year.

I cut the article out of the paper, and put it on my side table.  I saw it every evening for several weeks.

This opportunity was asking me to step way out of my comfort zone.  Way out.

*     *     *     *     *

The article was about a local hospice.  It described the services the hospice provided — end of life care for those living out their final days, as well as bereavement support for those who have lost a beloved family member or friend — and all at no cost.  And it briefly related that while it had a modest staff of professional nurses and social workers, they were in need of volunteers to assist in the delivery of services.

If that’s all it said, it would not have caught my attention, and I would not be writing about this topic today.  But there was one phrase that captivated me:

We are especially in need of male volunteers to assist and support male clients who are grieving the loss of a loved one.

Before reading the piece, I didn’t really know much about hospice, or about death and dying, let alone grief, grieving, and bereavement support.  I really had not even experienced someone close to me dying…

That was one of multiple reasons why I thought this particular volunteer opportunity wasn’t a real good fit.

But I could not bring myself to throw the article away…

Was it just coincidence that just a couple of weeks after I had resolved to look to volunteer at something that I happen upon this hospice bereavement thing?  I could not get it out of my mind … and I remember thinking, as I picked up the phone several weeks later I must be out of my mind to be even considering this!

*     *     *     *     *

I was a hospice bereavement volunteer for just over five years.

I counseled grieving men, one at a time and one-on-one over many weeks; I  co-facilitated bereavement support groups, paired with a peer; I led a once-a-month Saturday morning men’s breakfast meeting; I even spent some time with a couple who’s child had committed suicide.

If that sounds like tough stuff, it was.

But here’s the thing:  I am convinced that I benefited from my volunteer experience out of all proportion to the service and value that I provided.

I stepped way outside my comfort zone, prompted by a persistent something that stayed on my mind; it resisted all rational argument designed to disregard it.

It is clearly still on my mind, because every 365 days, when reflecting upon the year ending and thinking about the year beginning, I am reminded that that one step way outside my comfort zone very definitely was worth the risk.

If it’s still in your mind, it is worth taking the risk.

What idea, what aspiration, is still in your mind?