Family Forum / By Judy Konitzer: It is that time for making New Year’s resolutions, and here is one that is truly worth considering. Become a VOLUNTEER!
The word derived from the French “Voluntaire” dates back to around 1600 as “one who offered himself for military service.” By the mid-19th century, the word “volunteering” expanded to a non-military sense which included community service.
On 8 Dec. Charlie Company, 2916th Avn Bn, 916th Support Brigade, NTC, Fort Irwin, CA organized “Black Hawk Photos with Santa.” Soldier and Family members volunteered to fulfill the roles as photographer, photo op assistant and greeter, flyer creator and distributor, festive Black Hawk display set-up team, food and drink prep, and assistance with the fundraiser table. The annual event has been a big hit for Soldiers and their families. / PERSONAL PHOTO BY JENNY SANTOS, 2916TH AVN BN CSM SPOUSE;
Below: Since 1994 COL (Ret.) Buzz Lasch has met with members of the Old American Boat Club to volunteer ringing the bell for the Salvation Army during the first week of December in Alexandria, Virginia’s Old Town.
On December 17, 1985 the General Assembly of the United Nations declared December 5 “International Volunteer Day” and an opportunity to celebrate the power and potential of volunteerism. This year’s theme is “Volunteer for an Inclusive Future,” with Secretary-General Antonio Gutteras thanking volunteers from around the world.
Statistics are disappointing because many are “too busy” and have expectations that someone else will step up and reduce the stress of an extra obligation to an already full plate. Many Americans today equate their worth or time in terms of dollars or cents, but volunteers in any capacity are those who have no explainable cost. They bring compassion, unselfishness, caring, patience, need, and just plain loving one another. Their very presence transcends politics, religion, ethnic background, marital status, sexism, and oh, by the way, there are health benefits for volunteering.
Research shows that any type of volunteering reduces stress and boosts self-confidence. It increases what is called “helper’s high,” increases trust in others, and increases social interaction. Building a support system based on common interests can also decrease depression. Volunteering in any capacity (full time or for a one- time event) can give one a sense of purpose and increase valuable skills. However, people sometimes feel they need to commit full time to something, which is not always the case as any kind of helpful act can create benefits. For example, “Virtual volunteering” done on a computer and on your own time frame evaluating AAAA scholarship applications next July. It’s been a valuable experience for everyone involved in the past, and I have personally learned so much about our youth and their aspirations. I highly recommend you consider it by contacting sue@quad-org.
For those having gone through life transitions like retirement, bereavement, or no longer having children at home, finding the opportunity to volunteer somewhere could be a way to replenish some social ties. It is also a way to focus on something or someone else and can provide a useful perspective so your problems might not seem as bad. A Mayo Clinic study showed that volunteers with chronic or serious illness experienced a decline in their pain intensity and depression when serving as peer volunteers for others suffering from chronic pain.
Our family always believed that we needed to support the units and families we have had the privilege of serving, as well as our church and community wherever we lived. Over the years it would have been a lot easier to depend on someone else to coach the teams, be scout leaders, teach religious education, hug Special Olympians, etc., but we would have missed the joy and valuable lessons learned from being involved and doing “our part”. As a result, we are very blessed as our “Magnificent Seven” continue this tradition of volunteering in their communities today.
The opportunities for volunteering are too numerous to mention, but if you are interested in volunteering with any Veterans or Military Service Organizations or State Veterans affairs, the Department of Veterans Affairs in Washington D.C. supplies information concerning organizations that provide these services. Their inclusion does not endorse or constitute approval of the organizations, but is helpful www.va.gov/VSO-Directory.pdf.
As you begin this New Year, why don’t you make a resolution to become a VOLUNTEER! “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” -Gandhi. You will be a better person for it.