Over the summer, I volunteered at the Custom House Maritime Museum in Newburyport, a museum that promotes the vast history of the city and its role in privateering, shipping, and trade.
For five consecutive weeks, I trained to become a docent for the museum, a volunteer who gave tours and insight on Newburyport’s history. Each week, I tried my best to make people’s visits enjoyable and informative, spending three hours every Friday assisting tours and providing information to visitors of the museum.
Despite my excitement, the first day volunteering was a nightmare. I had the unfortunate task of learning how challenging it was to volunteer at a museum. Over the course of three hours, there were people who asked multiple questions that I didn’t know the answer to. The vast amount of information in each exhibit was enough to make my head spin, and it made me doubt that I would ever be able to remember it all or even give my own tours.
It was easy to feel the heavy burden of self doubt and disappointment throughout the day. The next week I volunteered was similar, and I began to consider quitting. It was hard to keep a level head with so much happening around me. Throughout each day, I questioned my decision of volunteering at a museum that focuses on such a broad span of history.
I truly wanted to become a valuable asset to the docents and volunteers at the Custom House, even when I faced hardship. I decided to give myself one more chance to adjust to the museum. Every time I followed my mentor on a tour, I became more and more determined to do my part and to prove that I knew what I was doing.
I made mistakes and forgot information in the process, but I was surprisingly fine. I no longer feared embarrassment. I began to shy away less from the idea of leading people and providing tours for them. Even when my mentor surprised me by calling on me to answer a question, I gladly took the opportunity to test out my skills.
It wasn’t until my fourth week when I began to realize that volunteering at the museum meant more than just fulfilling my community service requirements. The time I spent at the museum helped me realized that I wanted to do something that mattered to me and the others around me.
With time, I began to understand the true value of helping the community. The idea of it is such a broad vision that it can be hard to grasp. However, helping a community doesn’t revolve around just fundraisers and grand actions; it begins by helping a single person and moving outward from there.
Even in a small museum, I was given the opportunity to meet many people with diverse backgrounds and personalities. I was able to connect to people and become closer to the community through its people just by giving a tour and communicating with them.
Along with becoming more oriented with the community, I gained many invaluable traits that helped in my personal life. Before I began to spend time with the Custom House, I was a reserved person who feared public speaking and lacked interest in going outside of my comfort zone. Although I still struggle with my insecurities, my confidence has grown immensely and has allowed me to become more of a leader in life.
My opportunities in the community also grew as well. With my newly gained confidence, I was able to rise above and push past my insecurities to apply for a job at a restaurant. Because of my abilities in public relations and communications from volunteering, I was able to get the job and expand my skills further.
Providing service to a community is a daunting task, but with the right environment it can be a rewarding experience. It’s important to learn the value of community and the hard work that goes towards improving it. No matter how small the deed can be, volunteering is a great way to become closer to the people around you.