A few years ago, I was working full-time and finishing an evening program to earn my Master of Business Administration degree. When I finished my MBA, I wanted to use that “extra” time for something meaningful.
The advice from a trusted professor was simple and clear—I needed to find opportunities to serve. While he knew of my Church responsibilities, he suggested I look beyond my regular circle of influence.
I started a prayerful search to know where my skills and talents were needed and where I could do the most good. I was soon led to a community center that needed mentors for their teen program. I began mentoring a teenage girl whose family had left Somalia as refugees. Each week we practiced reading, writing, and math skills. But beyond that, we developed a friendship and learned about each other’s cultures and dreams for the future. When she moved, I was assigned another girl. Her family had fled Myanmar, and she had been raised in a refugee camp in Thailand. Along with studying, we also discussed the challenges of life and how to respond to them.
I’ve found many other opportunities to use my skills in different ways and serve in the community.
Many of us single adults find ourselves with shifting demands on our time due to a move, graduation, or job change, among others. Often, we get a nudge from the Spirit that our single years are not just a “waiting game.” We feel a need to develop more purpose and meaning.
We probably have more “extra” time than we care to admit, so taking a minute to see how we can use that time to lift others will be a blessing to others as well as ourselves. After all, serving others is how we can show our love for God and keep our covenants to give our all to Him.
Evaluate your time. Use a notebook or planner to track how you spend your time. Do you have a few extra hours of unplanned or wasted time? Or are you overburdening yourself? It’s just as essential to understand where you have extra time as it is to understand where you may need to cut back. Prioritize what is most important and plan time to serve.
Evaluate your skills. Think about what you like to do or what you feel compelled to do. Consider ways you can use your talents and skills to bless others.
Pray. Ask for heavenly guidance to be led where you’re needed. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said, “I know that God … will help you and guide you in compassionate acts of discipleship if you are conscientiously wanting and praying and looking for ways to keep a commandment He has given us again and again” (“Are We Not All Beggars?” Liahona, Nov. 2014, 41).
Get out of your comfort zone. With mentoring, at first I wasn’t comfortable working with teenagers or with tutoring in all subjects. But sometimes my main job was to provide motivation and encouragement. We don’t have to be the perfect fit to make a difference. Most of the time, our main impact could be being there, listening, and building a long-term relationship of trust and stability.
Make a consistent effort. Many organizations or people need consistent and regular volunteer efforts—something that is more than a project or a drop-in.
Be patient. Sometimes I think, “I don’t know if I can keep doing this. It’s so tiring. Am I doing any good?” But once I start helping, my heart changes. I have rarely left a service opportunity without feeling better and motivated to come back. However, if the opportunity is too taxing, consider other opportunities or ask for some time “off” of volunteering so you can give what is needed.