720 Days

If anyone is familiar with the social media platform, Facebook, you might be familiar with their feature known as ‘On This Day’, which recollects your moments on Facebook from previous years.  It’s only appropriate for me, that when I checked my ‘On This Day’ this morning, Facebook showed me that I shared this video exactly 3 years ago on November 21, 2013.   In context, I had just graduated from UC Irvine when I first saw this video, and I was beginning to realize the value of ‘time’ and how I could make the highest impact and greatest use of my life.  The video uses Jelly Beans (which happens to be on my Top 5 favorite Candy List) to illustrate, on average, how much time people spend on certain activities during their lifetime.  The video states that an average person lives 28,835 days, spends 8,477 days sleeping, spends 1,675 days eating or preparing food, and only 720 days providing some sort of civil duty such as volunteering.

As I re-watched this video today, I was a little disappointed at the large difference between the amount of days spend eating or preparing food versus the amount of days volunteering.  However after looking at both sides, I realized something.  When it comes to time spent volunteering, it’s not about how long you volunteer, but the impact your volunteering is making.  (Please do not let my revelation dissuade you from reducing your time spent volunteering)  Let me share with you a couple examples of what I mean by volunteers making the most of their volunteering.

Last week on the blog, we shared a story about young volunteers from Japanese American Optimist coming into KEIRO’s former facilities in Boyle Heights to make and hand out various holiday crafts to the residents.  I had the pleasure of being there with these volunteers that morning as they made hundreds of Thanksgiving Day and winter crafts.  While the volunteers spent several hours at the facilities, only the last hour was dedicated towards meeting the residents and giving them the product of their creative minds.  To you and me, interacting with a stranger may seem minuscule.  However to the residents, this short, but meaningful time spent with the JAO Volunteers made all the difference.  Bette Uchida, a longtime resident at the retirement home (soon to be known as Sakura Gardens) said, “It was so cute seeing all of the girls from JAO come into the dining hall with the crafts they made.  It was a highlight of our day!” Weeks later, residents are still smiling at the moments they shared with these young volunteers.

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Resident Bette Uchida holds up a gingerbread house that a JAO Volunteer made for her

While volunteering has traditionally viewed the benefactor as the individual reaping the benefits, studies show that volunteers are able to take away just as much from their experiences.  Earlier in November, middle school and high school aged students from Orange County Buddhist Church’s Sangha Teens and Jr. Young Buddhists Association, also visited the retirement home where they hosted a Bingo game for the residents.  Similar to the JAO volunteers, the OCBC volunteers only had a short period of time interacting with the residents, however they were able to make the most out of their limited opportunity.  A week after visiting the facility, I had the chance to speak with OCBC’s Jr. YBA President, Russell Lee about his experience.  He recalled, “We had a wonderful time meeting and playing Bingo with the residents.  It was a great experience for us to interact with the older generation and we would love to return on another occasion.”

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Volunteer Russell Lee helps a resident with her Bingo Prize

It’s a known fact that some of us will be fortunate to live more than 28,835 days while some of us will live less.  Even then, 28,835 days is nowhere near the amount of time needed to do everything you want to do.  The thought of ‘volunteering’ can be intimidating to us especially when we have schedules filled with school, careers, families, passions and exploration.  Let’s take a page out of our community’s youth and follow the footsteps of the JAO and OCBC volunteers and remember it’s not how long we spend volunteering, but how we are making the most out of our short time as volunteers.

“It Takes a Community to Care for Older Adults.”

We invite you to join KEIRO in supporting the facility residents by becoming a volunteer today. Volunteers are the heart of our community and support the wellbeing and vitality of residents and seniors. For more information please visit our website.


About the Author: 

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Kevin Onishi is the Community Engagement Specialist at Keiro.  He attended the University of California at Irvine where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Public Health Policy.  In his spare time, Kevin stays genki by being an accomplished amateur food critic, a Golden State Warrior fan, and his parents’ favorite child.  Additionally, Kevin is an avid golfer and coaches basketball.

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