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A Woman's View - Where are the volunteers?
Judi Tabler color mug

“Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on Earth” Muhammad Ali.

I wonder if we give much thought to how much our society runs on the donated time of others? 

The bare bones are taken care of by the government ... safety, fixing streets, repairs of sewers ... you know, the essentials. But anything beyond that? Nope.

When I was a young parent, I certainly didn’t consider donated time and efforts to be my job. I didn’t even realize the purpose of such efforts. Like most of my contemporaries, I didn’t understand, and didn’t want to understand.

I simply did not care ... much.

After all, “somebody else could do it.” “They have the time.” “I’m too busy.” “I’m too tired.” And as for financial contributions and financial needs ... “Why can’t the government do it?”

Perhaps my decisions to say, “no, thanks,” when invited to join a benevolent club was based on ignorance, disinterest, laziness or immaturity. Many today simply have not yet maturely come to the realization that society functions effectively because of volunteers.

Years ago, a couple then in their middle 40s lost an 18-year-old son to a tragic disease. They stayed at his side in the hospital. It was December. The husband, Lewis, couldn’t be in his store during his busiest season.  

The community rose to their rescue. Friends took turns working at the business. Others bought family gifts from this merchant’s store. The couple experienced a healthy financial December. Churches united in prayer and with help. And although their beloved son passed away, there was enough money for them to get over the hump.

Encouragement. Support. Effort.

Edith, the wife, had learned a valuable lesson. She recognized the importance of helping ... not being casual nor apathetic. She was changed and would remember to do the same for others in the future. 

We hope we don’t have to learn the importance of volunteer service the hard way.

Local service organizations like Rotary, Lions, Kiwanis, Pilot Club International, Hospital Auxiliaries, P.E.O., and hundreds of others contribute what government can never do. Whether the group is donating food baskets, sponsoring and educating the public about brain disabilities, giving time to the schools to help read or educate, lending financial support, providing scholarships, sponsoring mentor programs, or giving blood, there is no way this can be effectively accomplished without volunteers.

Whether providing disaster relief, bringing home cooked food to the shut-ins, being a part of a booster club to buy needed equipment for youth sports, helping at a local hospital, sponsoring a health fair: these are only a few needs that a volunteer can help to meet.

And the list goes on and on.

Here’s the truth. And we all need to hear it.

What about the doers, the ones who are getting these jobs done? They are aging. And every year, more of those in the front of the imaginary ticket line are walking through the turnstile of life, and disappearing into history. Those behind them are looking tired, and worn, and their energy is waning.

Has anyone noticed? The service club meetings are full of white hair-heads. 

“Oh, but they have time. They are old. They don’t have anything else to do to feel useful!” I have heard that over and over. I think maybe I once said it. 

The truth is that these folks fulfill this time-consuming need because it’s the right thing to do. 

Some have learned the importance of volunteering the hard way, through a loss themselves. Some have always known the reality of society’s greatest need – volunteers. And others? Well, they like it.

What will happen when those younger folks see that there is no food pantry, no Christmas baskets for needy kids, no fundraisers for scholarships, no donated time to go into the schools to help encourage and supplement the teacher’s lessons, no events to raise money for a hospital machine that is not in the budget, no special Olympics? No Salvation Army bell ringer, no escorts at the blood bank, no garden club ladies planting flowers just to make beauty on the streets, no bus drivers to take the infirm to doctor appointments, no ...

The old gang needs to be replaced. This is a call. It’s “giving back.” 

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’” — Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Judi Tabler lives in Pawnee County and is a guest columnist for the Great Bend Tribune. She can be reached at Visit her website