Volunteering is the greatest dating platform on the planet.
For the record, I'm not an online-dating hater. My cousin met his wife on J-Date. My father-in-law met his love on Match.com. Even my dad, a physician, prescribes online dating to his patients as a way to help them avoid social isolation and maximize the quality of their lives. But those disillusioned with the online dating experience -- or who don't want to meet the love of their life at a college dorm party with Outkast's "Ms. Jackson" thumping in the background like I did -- should volunteer.
At LIFT, the organization I work with, our volunteers bond over the daily highs and lows of volunteering in a fast-paced resource center. And volunteers fall in love. Madly in love.
Take Vivien and Tommy. Vivien and Tommy met at LIFT, and love happened. Vivien would often ask all the volunteers if anyone wanted to walk home instead of taking public transit. Tommy was the only one who took her up on the offer. They'd stroll home in the late afternoon Chicago summer sun talking about their volunteer experiences, their lives. Two very different yet like-minded do-gooders who went through the trenches of service together and came away with a deep understanding of each other's strengths and passions and a walking partnership that turned into a romantic one. They now spend weekends going to art fairs, trying new restaurants and of course volunteering -- they recently planted a beautiful garden outside an urban post office in Chicago with other volunteers.
And Jordan and Khyati are another couple (I emceed their wedding!) who found love while doing good. When Khyati saw Jordan volunteering to help his struggling neighbors find jobs, get on housing waiting lists and learn computer skills, in Khyati's eyes Jordan oozed sexy, husband material. And she cuffed that boy accordingly. And when Jordan saw Khyati rocking out her challenging national service position he knew she was more than just a pretty face.
The moment at their Jewish/Indian mash up wedding when Jordan rolled up in a convertible, top down, bumping the theme from Rocky as his tattoo of the Philadelphia skyline practically levitated from under his wedding garb was one of the happiest moments I've ever witnessed. And not only have Jordan and Khyati crossed the Kardashian 72-day threshold with flying colors, they just celebrated their third wedding anniversary. He is now a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker and she works for an organization that develops and preserves affordable housing in the DC region. She got Jordan into Yoga, tolerates his sub-par free style rapping and still cracks up the loudest at his witty jokes and one-liners. Their Facebook pages consist of a slew of pictures of the inseparable, backpack toting travelers arm in arm. They even play in the same fantasy football league and talk virtual smack to one another when their teams face off. They are a match made in volunteer heaven.
Those of us who have volunteered know that our swagger increases exponentially with every volunteer hour we contribute. We feel good. And we should. Too many of our neighbors are standing on shaky ground and the safety net is being stretched too thin. We all have a responsibility to volunteer and reverse the tides of inequality in our communities. And in doing so we could very well meet our future partner, lover or spouse.
Volunteer possibilities are endless. So, identify the areas of need about which you are passionate, research your community and volunteer! It's good for your love life. Just ask Tommy and Vivien, Jordan and Khyati.