In Praise of Volunteers

by Ken Clarke

The following is an excerpt from a talk given at an Volunteer Appreciation event. 

I really didn’t know what to expect on the other side of the door; there was for me that moment of anxiousness.  But I had agreed to this volunteer opportunity and the call indicated there was a sense of urgency in responding, so Janice and I went, knocked on the door and quietly slipped inside.
Bill (not his real name) was lying beside his wife in a hospital bed, holding her close; she was in her final hours of life.  He noticed us as we made our way toward the room, “You must be Ken, I’m so glad you came.”
For the next twenty minutes or so we listened as Bill shared the story of their life together.  We interacted with him for a few minutes, offered some words of encouragement, comfort and hope and then left so that he could spend his final moments with his wife.
Stories like this get repeated every day in large centres and small communities as volunteers come alongside to support and encourage or provide practical expressions of service and kindness.
Today is about recognizing, appreciating, and honoring the commitment and dedication of our volunteers.  Whether you serve on the front lines supporting others–being a caring and compassionate presence, often at time when they are feeling weak and vulnerable and afraid; or if you provide a service that lifts and inspires others; or if you serve behind the scenes, providing administrative support or practical kinds of assistance that makes the environment or surroundings easier or more beautiful, in your own way each you give of yourself, your time and energy and resources to invest in others; to make a difference and make our communities a better place.
There is very little in life that brings as much satisfaction and joy than when we give of ourselves to come alongside, to bless and encourage, to support and lift up another person.  To serve as a volunteer is one of the highest callings in life.  It is sometimes demanding, sometimes challenging and draining, but it is one of the most noble, enriching and rewarding experiences we will ever have.
Look at any thriving community, dig a little beneath the surface and you will discover a group of dedicated volunteers.  Volunteers are the root of a strong community!  It takes all of us working together, giving and serving to make our communities a great place to live and work and play.
When we left Bill that evening, there was that moment when I sensed the short time we had invested that night was worth it; in a small way we had made a difference.  A few days later I received a card from Bill, in it he wrote:  Ken, I just wanted to thank you and your wife for coming to the hospital on such short notice and provide (my wife) with that spiritual comfort that she had asked for.  I left it to the last moment and would not have forgiven myself but suddenly you were there.  It gave me such comfort as her final hours ticked by.
This is the stuff I live for! 
Sometimes we get a note of thanks or a word of encouragement, but sometimes our efforts seemingly go unnoticed.  But not today!  Today we honor you; we celebrate your contribution; we express our appreciation and simply say ‘thank you’!  It is a privilege to be among you; I join in the celebration with you and want to be among those who say ‘well done’!

To all of our volunteers at DVHS, who serve in communities, I say to you, ‘thank you’, ‘well done’!

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