Advocacy and volunteering has a special place in the hearts of so many of us. We all advocate for and volunteer, in some capacity, with the things that matter most to us. As parents, we advocate for our children in a myriad of ways, from choosing good schools to overseeing homework to monitoring healthy diets and sleep habits. We volunteer in our communities in formal ways and informal ways, from stocking the shelves of food pantries to mowing the neighbor’s lawn during hard times. According to a US Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2016, 25% of Americans volunteer. For many of us, the second half of our lives is a great time to pursue our passions through advocacy and volunteering, along the way connecting with others who share our interests or desire to make a difference and give back. The perks of volunteering are many and include better physical and emotional health, feeling more engaged and, ironically, feeling that we have more time, learning new skills and connecting us in our relationships. 

This month we hear from Habitat for Humanity’s Hardcore Volunteers, who share their stories not only of what they give back but how much they receive in return (p. 26), explore how to actually decide on volunteer options and service fits (p. 44) and hear from people who started second careers with purpose and meaning in their second 50 (p. 30). We’re also thrilled to interview Amy Natt and hear about her passion for advocacy and outreach in her role as President and CEO of Aging Outreach Services, which turns 20 years old this year (p. 34). 

Finally, we begin our four-part series on the opioid epidemic, which so deeply affects our country, our communities and each one of us in such personal, individual ways. This month we look at the numbers and statistics regarding the opioid crisis and begin exploring how it impacts us at both the macro and micro levels, that is, how our communities are affected and how individual people have struggled with the effects and aftermath of opioid addiction (p. 54). 

If there is a purpose behind advocacy and volunteering, it is perhaps that it connects us to each other, something many of us at times find missing in our communities and in our personal lives. We are busy. We are tired. We are afraid of reaching out or having others reaching in. But all of that busyness and fear can leave us isolated and alone, a condition Mother Theresa described in saying, 

“The greatest disease in the west today is not TB or leprosy: it is being unwanted, unloved and uncared for. We can cure physical diseases with medicine, but the only cure for loneliness, despair, and hopelessness is love.” 

Let our advocacy and volunteering be the candle that lights the way toward more hope, connection and love.