During a long and varied career with a major company I was occasionally selected to volunteer for various causes and projects. It seems that the definition of “volunteer”had a slightly different spin on it then that of the commonly held definition. For instance, it might be “It is time for the annual United Fund Pledge Program and, as a teamleader, you have been selected to provide supervision for the effort”, or, “I need a volunteer to represent us as an advisor for the Junior Achievement program and I selected you”. You get the picture. So, when I hung up my green eyeshade and tripped into retirement, being a volunteer for anything was not paramount on my radar.
It didn’t take long, however, during the adjustment to civilian life before I began to look for something to do, beyond the tasks provided by my wife. This is when I finally grasped the true spirit of volunteerism. Doing things I want to do purely because it provides a service while bringing me a great degree of satisfaction and in fact, has made my retirement much more fruitful and purposeful.
I have many friends and former peers who, like myself, have moved out to pasture and have chosen not to just stand around and graze. Many have sought opportunities to contribute their time and skills by supporting charities or favorite causes. If they are like me, I am sure it is because, in addition to providing help where it is needed, it also provides them with a sense of self worth. They choose to make a difference. They realize the value they bring to fulfilling a need.
I read this morning about a guy that was facing his first Thanksgiving alone and, hating the prospect, put an ad in his local newspaper inviting 12 people (strangers) to join him for dinner. Utilizing his churchs kitchen, he provided everything and cooked it all himself. That was 33 years ago. He has done it every year since and today feeds between 60 and 100 people annually, no charge. You just have to call him and make a reservation. He brings in carpets, window curtains, sofas and chairs and a faux fireplace to make it feel more like a home. It isn’t about the food however. It is about avoiding the silence of spending the day alone. He says his guests range from the homeless to the elderly and everyone in between. College students that can’t make it home. One man that had just lost his wife put on one of her aprons and helped wash the dishes. Another woman paid for an ambulance to bring her, dressing up in her finest. She said she hadn’t been out in seven years. She cried when it was over.
When I read things like this, it reinforces my belief that we all have a gift and that gifts are to be given. Sharing of oneself is the purest form of love. It doesn’t have to be much. The smallest acts of kindness reap rewards. To touch another for no other reason then because you can is what it is all about. I find it a selfish pleasure. It is one of the reasons I have so much to be thankful for. So to everyone that has touched my life, I wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving.