April is National Volunteer Month so I decided it was a good time to honor some volunteers I know.
Virginia scoots around in her wheelchair from table to table in the assisted living facility’s dining room. She volunteered to keep the holders for the sugar packets on each table refilled each day, and she takes her volunteer responsibilities seriously.
Lois comes to my The Hope of Glory class with her knitting in a tote. Each week she shows us the progress she’s making on the next cozy hat she’s knitting for a baby in the hospital. How grateful new parents must be to receive this handmade gift, and even if Lois never gets to see their delighted faces or see the hat on a tiny head, she keeps knitting. She also regularly reads to fellow residents with vision problems, including Joanne.
Joanne always assumed that she would spend her golden years tutoring students and reading to others, but macular degeneration derailed her plans. “I asked the Lord what He would have me do instead,” she explained to our group, “and He told me to pray for the younger generation because they need to be lifted up in prayer. So now that’s my volunteer assignment.”
And my friend Phyllis, 93, has volunteered at a thrift shop that supports community philanthropies for almost 30 years.
It’s a privilege to know older adults who still have the heart to volunteer at a time in their lives when they could so easily sit back and say, “Been there, done that. It’s someone else’s turn to volunteer now.” Rather than be complacent, they see a need and rise up to meet it. They say like Isaiah in Isaiah 6:8, “Here am I. Send me!” I call them vintage volunteers.
Recently I was asked to address a group of volunteers at the Ronald McDonald House of Southern Colorado, and I identified what all volunteers need to succeed: passion, commitment, and hope.
Our passion may be whatever makes us extremely happy or extremely angry. Whatever consumes our thoughts and inspires us to sign up or write a check. Once we identify a passion for some cause, we are more likely to volunteer.
And every volunteer needs commitment. It’s commitment that makes us show up for our volunteer shift even when it would be easier to call and cancel. And it’s commitment that moves us to complete any task we see that needs doing, even if it’s not in our volunteer job description.
Without hope, we wouldn’t volunteer at all, would we? We volunteer our time and resources because we hope our involvement will make a difference. And we hope because we care.
If you have elders in your life with time on their hands, help them recall a passion that motivated them in the past. If possible, identify some task, however small, that they can do to feed that passion. Encourage them to be committed to this volunteer effort and instill them with hope that what they do will make a difference. Vintage volunteers have so much to offer, and volunteering in any way adds purpose to their days.
First published in Pikes Peak Senior News.