Giving back is hugely important to me, especially now that I have a chronic illness.
Before my slow downward turn, I volunteered at a local animal shelter; the same one, in fact, where the Professor and I eventually adopted Otis. I worked with the cats and was on the education committee, bringing dogs into elementary schools to teach kids how to respond appropriately to animals. I loved it, but it was a lot of hard physical work, so I eventually had to give it up.
Now, I teach Sunday school to a group of kindergarten-age kids, I volunteer occasionally with the middle school youth group at my church, and, as I’ve mentioned before, I’m a peer mentor for the National Psoriasis Foundation. I enjoy these for different reasons, I guess in the end it really just boils down to two: I like helping people, and it makes me feel good.
Being around small children is rejuvenating, in a way; they are so filled with energy and life and light. The kids in my class love to laugh and draw and play Memory. They find the simplest things so joyful: colouring a picture, playing outside, talking about their pets and families. But the subject matter is also, of course, really wonderful to talk about. Talking to kids about faith—and about how they see God—is just really encouraging. I always walk out of Sunday school with a smile.
Now, volunteering with the National Psoriasis Foundation moves me in a different way. I’m connecting with people who, like me, have psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis or both. Some are older; some are younger. But we’re all bound together by one simple fact: We know what it feels like. I’ve had psoriasis for more than a decade; PsA joined the party about seven years after my initial diagnosis. I’ve had good doctors and bad doctors. I’ve been on drugs that helped, drugs that hurt and drugs that did nothing at all. The common thread is that I have been through what they have been through. Though people in their lives may be sympathetic (or not, unfortunately), I can be empathetic. That is very powerful. None of us are alone.
Volunteering, getting involved in whatever way I can, it’s essential. In giving to others, I also receive. And for someone who always has to worry about counting spoons, getting a few back every now and then feels like a blessing.