Here's a toast to our volunteers
I like the idea of volunteerism. It takes things out of the hands of bureaucratic weasels and, as a consequence, tasks actually get accomplished. Once you move a paycheque and benefits into any mix, the pay and the perks become the primary concerns of those who work for officially sanctioned organizations. I know that’s biased, but since this is my blog I can be as biased as I choose to be.
Anyway, and not blowing my own horn, I have done a fair amount of volunteering in my adult life. I have also served on over a dozen boards, and continue to serve on a couple. That doesn’t make me special, it just makes me a citizen doing what I believe a citizen should do, and that is to give whatever talents he or she might have to serve the well-being of the community.
But, what I do is small potatoes when compared with those volunteers who actually risk life and/or limb for their fellow citizens. At a local level I am put immediately in mind of volunteer firefighters and volunteer search-and-rescue people. Now that, to me, is ‘service.’
Firefighters just amaze me, and this was an impulse I had long before 9/11. A favorite uncle was a fireman when I was growing up. I worshipped him. I also saw him take huge risks and get badly hurt on a couple of occasions. Firefighters actually suffer a statistically greater loss of life than do members of police forces. Their chances of injury are mammoth as well, and very few firefighters go through a career unscathed. None of this is to mention the increased cancer risk due to the inhalation of noxious and caustic fumes. There is another facet of their risks as well, and that is the much more widespread incidence of emotional breakdown among firefighters than is generally reported.
And, our local firefighters do this as volunteers! I am consistently astonished by this.
Locally, too, there is another group that regularly puts their personal well-being at risk, and that is the ground search and rescue crew. We live in mountainous terrain and with too much regularity the unschooled and risk-seeking take to the hills, improperly equipped and thoroughly lacking in backcountry experience. They get lost, or they get hurt. And the volunteers of ground search and rescue go out to find them. Usually they are successful, blessedly. But, they too get hurt. They too fall down embankments and break limbs.
And they too do this as volunteers.
Oh sure, some of the young bucks in both realms are the glory boys. God love their energy. Yet, interestingly enough, the majority of them stay on board for the duration. We have volunteer firefighters in their early 60s, who have been doing the job (alongside their regular jobs) for 40 years. That’s service. Those are people who deserve to be recognized.
Raise a glass to our volunteers.
Labels: Serving a community