This I Believe

KUHF-Houston Public Radio’s “This I Believe” with Marlene Nelson

Marlene was born in Idaho, but as a baby, she and her parents moved to Texas. For 36 years, Marlene taught 4th, 5th and 6th grade students in LaMarque, Pearland, Bay City and for the last 21 years in her home town of Alvin. After retiring, Marlene discovered the benefits of volunteering, which is the basis of her essay for Houston Public Radio’s “”This I Believe.”


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Marlene’s father was the first dean and registrar of Brownsville Junior College in Laredo and then became the first dean and registrar at Alvin Community College. That’s where Marlene went to school and then it was on to the University of Texas. Education was in her blood. After graduating from UT, she came home to Alvin to teach. For almost four decades, she taught 4th, 5th and 6th grade students. She taught long enough to teach second generation students she lovingly calls “grand-students.” Retirement was not initially kind to Marlene and after a couple of years, she discovered “volunteering.” Now, with the same vigor she taught school, she shares her time and energy with others. It’s her new passion and is expressed in her essay for Houston Public Radio’s This I Believe.

“I believe for many, reaching retirement means unstructured time (causing frustration), bigger waistlines (causing health problems), less income (causing stress) and less social contact or feeling useful (causing depression). I believe much of this can be improved greatly through volunteering, and making a choice and commitment to help others. I believe it works both ways, that as we help others we help ourselves.

We can make our life better, and improve our physical, mental, and emotional health as well. It’s a matter of finding what’s available that suits you best, then getting involved. Start on a trial basis — if it doesn’t fit, try something else.

Whether helping people, animals or causes — whether alone, or with a few or many — just get involved and be dependable. I believe the results can be amazing! I know because I’m living proof of the benefits that can come from volunteering:

In the two years after 36 years of teaching, I’d eaten and gained a lot of weight. My blood-pressure, triglycerides, and cholesterol levels were up and I was borderline-diabetic, looking less attractive, and I was becoming more isolated and depressed. Then I volunteered to join a new music ministry for local Seniors and the disabled at various locations. When I commented I missed the organizing — even the lesson plans of teaching — I was immediately chosen to be the director of Compassionate Chorale.

Five years later, we go to seven locations two times a month each, to do sing along programs. Ten of our volunteers go to one or more and our lead pianist and I, as song leader, do all 14 programs per month where we sing a dozen or more hymns, help turn large print pages as they sing along, and stay awhile to visit and shake hands or give a hug. We all feel appreciated and our time well-spent. As for me, I weigh less, have lower blood pressure, sugar and cholesterol levels than before, take fewer prescriptions and am no longer lonely or depressed.

I believe those who volunteer more, benefit more and nothing you can buy or ingest does you more good or is a better “attitude adjuster”. When it’s not all about ME, but about “what can I do for OTHERS?” and “How can I help YOU?” I believe volunteering can cure a lot of problems, starting with my OWN. This I believe.”