I originally started writing this blog immediately following our last volunteer project with A Year to Volunteer back in the end of September.

It was one of those times where that strange phenomenon that sometimes occurs in me hit hard – writer’s block.  It is so strange when it happens.  I start to write and then hit a wall and stare at a half-filled screen for hours on end, only to close Microsoft Word and walk away from my computer in frustration.  Sometimes it is over within a few hours, sometimes much longer.  In this case – months.

Granted, we have had a lot on our plates since we arrived back in Pennsylvania.  It seems like for whatever reason, the passing of two people dear to me within a little over a week of each other snapped me out of it.  I wish that I would not have had to go through that pain to get me writing again, but sometimes there is good on the other side of pain.

So, for Thanksgiving, and what will launch for some a crazy and stressful time of the year, I felt that finishing this blog about giving would be timely…

As the old English proverb says, “Birds of a feather flock together.”

The meaning of the proverb is that beings (typically humans) of similar type, interest, personality, character, or another distinctive attribute tend to mutually associate.

I think that is a great description for the fellow volunteers who we have met over the past couple of years through A Year to Volunteer (Y2V). It was no different for those who came together at our most recent Y2V project at the Raptor Education Group (REGI) in Antigo, Wisconsin.  Just like the birds that we would be helping for the next two weeks, our group of volunteers migrated from all over the country to land in Antigo.  We came from the north, south, east, and west to lend a hand to this amazing organization.  We were all from different backgrounds, yet all have the same desire to give back.  Many of us had worked on previous projects together, so we greeted each other with smiles and hugs.

This project was extra special for Sandy and I because REGI was where we volunteered at for our first Y2V project.  With both of us coming from nonprofit backgrounds and having a love for animals, we immediately fell in love with the work that was being done at REGI.  As we got to know Marge Gibson, the Founder and Executive Director of REGI better throughout our time there last year, we simply fell in love with her and the work that she and her staff are doing.

I have mentioned this in many of my past blogs, but giving, in my opinion has a boomerang effect to it.  What I mean by that is you go into something to give of yourself and many times feel like you have received.  It fills your heart when you see the effect of your labor on someone else.

We had a full list of items on this project and to see the reaction of Marge and her staff as each item was checked off was absolutely amazing.  They specialize in birds at REGI and the staff is razor thin.  Therefore, little things like painting, landscaping and small repairs just get put on the back burner.  An actual construction project of even the smallest magnitude is not even a blip in their radar.  They just do not have the resources.  So, when a group of volunteers shows up and can put a large dent into their never ending “to-do list,” it is, well, as Marge would say, “Just magical.”

The projects that we do with Y2V are always about the people.  It is not about painting or building or landscaping or digging ditches and clearing trails.

It is always about the people.  The people that we are doing the work for and the people that we are doing the work with.  It is about people helping people.  Life and being human is about people and connecting with people.  We live in a such a polarized society right now, yet if we only stopped talking and just listen a little bit to one another, we would find that we a whole lot more in common with each other than we could ever imagine.  Even someone like me, who is very introverted, longs for true human connection.

Helping other people is an amazing way for us to connect with one another.  To see the gratitude of others when you help will always fill your heart.

As a bonus at REGI, we get to see firsthand the amazing work that they do there.  That always makes us want to do a little extra as well.

When we are in the middle of working and Marge or one of her staff members starts coming around to tell us to stop what we are doing, we know that we are in for a special treat.  It is also proof that Marge is not as concerned about us losing a few minutes of working as she is with us fully experiencing the incredible work that they do there.

To see a Red-tailed Hawk being released back into the wild after months of rehabilitation from a spine injury is an experience like no other.  To be able to be within a few feet of some of the education birds that sadly cannot be returned to the wild is also quite incredible.  Not too many people can say that they have walked a Sand Hill Crane to help strengthen and rehabilitate her legs, but many of our volunteers on this project can.

An eagle is one of the most majestic creatures that God ever created.  Again, the experience of seeing one up close or getting released back into the wild, cannot even be put into words.

Those are some of the things that we receive at REGI that make it such a special experience every time that we go there.

So, as we enter this holiday season, I urge you to give of yourself.  Get out and meet people, learn their story, and truly connect with them.

I am certain that as you give of yourself, you are going to find out that you actually received more than what you gave in the first place.

Then, once the holiday season is over, keep giving, it will make the world a better place.