More than warm and fuzzy: Finding myself in service

Mar 30, 2011

By: Sarah Moreland

If I could describe myself in a word, I’m a “communicator.” The 22-year-old woman I’ve become thrives on meeting new people, engaging in conversation and sharing concepts with others. You wouldn’t guess that in high school— I was the stereotypical wallflower, a grade-A introvert.

Sometimes my understated nature meant I was overlooked by teachers, peers and even friends. I was self-conscious and lonely. Until I joined Key Club. Volunteerism gave me more than that “warm and fuzzy feeling” that comes with helping others.

Joining the Kiwanis family changed my self-perception in three ways:

· Sense of self-worth. I thought an outgoing personality was required to lead and make a difference. In Key Club, I discovered that the only requirement is a desire to serve others. I wasn’t a misfit, but an individual whose abilities complemented my club’s extroverted leadership. I could help by applying critical listening, organization and detail to club projects.

· Sense of belonging. Let’s be honest—being a teenager has its confusing and emotional moments. But I found instant support by joining service-minded high school students who were discovering their own leadership styles and self-worth. They didn’t care whether I was reserved or outgoing, and eventually I treated myself the same way. My new community blossomed into a worldwide network of people I’m still in contact with more than five years later.

· Sense of potential. My biggest shock was learning that I had thousands of opportunities to serve and lead—regardless of my reserved personality. Encouragement from new friends and a passion for volunteerism spurred me to run for elected club positions and speak to other students about how the Kiwanis family had changed me. I transcended my introversion – not because I had to, but because I felt compelled to share my love for community service.

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