Remembering to Thank the Volunteers

Mount St Joseph Canada 150

In my life, I have been a volunteer on a great number of occasions. Volunteering is either something you ‘get’ or you do not. And there are two opposing sides to the coin: the most militant volunteers feel it is your duty to give of your time and they will push you mercilessly; with any number of guilt trips, to shame you into giving of your time. On the opposite end of the spectrum, I have had people ask me: “You mean… (long pause and disbelieving look on face) …you aren’t PAID to do this?”

I have never really bothered to explain to either group. I will simply never be able to give enough to the former, and I will always appear a little crazy to the latter. There seems no point in spewing a bunch old clichéd statements like ‘giving is its own reward’; or ‘I’m just paying it forward’. I volunteer because it feels good. It gives me a sense of community. It reminds me to count my blessings.

What I have noticed over the years, is that volunteers do not often get to directly hear from the people they are helping. If they are perceptive, they may see the results of their good works, but generally, they are not the ones to get feedback.

I am on the phone one morning with my mother. She is only in the early stages of dementia so our conversations are still fairly coherent, although she jumps around a lot (she always did jump around but now she positively leaps back and forth from one topic to another). She was the one who chose to move into a nursing home and most of the time, she is thrilled to bits to be living there. She has always been a social butterfly and the last few years with my aging and ailing stepfather have been hard and lonely years for both of them. The only ‘problem’ she sees with the nursing home, she tells me jokingly, is “There are just too many activities – I never have time to do them all!”. She does have a hard time during viral outbreaks however, when residents are basically confined to their rooms in the home’s efforts to limit the spread of illness. The last few weeks, she and my step-father have been in their room a lot and as a result, she is irritable and restless.

At one point in the conversation, she mentions a ‘handsome young man’ (“He’s about your age, honey,” she tells me: and do keep in mind that I am 56 years old at the time I write this) who comes in to the seniors’ home from time to time. She isn’t clear on what his ‘job’ is – she never sees him doing any specific tasks except talking to the residents – but she is thrilled that he always takes the time to stop and have a nice, long conversation with her. “He is just so interesting,” she tells me earnestly, “And not a bit nosy. He never asks inappropriate questions. He always talks about so many interesting things – he just makes you feel alive.”

I have already figured out that he is probably a volunteer and as she speaks, my heart expands in gratitude for this stranger who has taken the time to come in and spend some of his ‘free’ time getting to know my mother. Asking about her. Making her feel ‘alive’. I live over three hours away and my sister – who has not been well – has had to limit her visits to see Mom for the past several months. I resolve to tell the nursing home how grateful I am – and to share Mom’s comments with them.

People so rarely think to thank the volunteers…

Patti Moore Wilson/ ©


Author: Patti Moore Wilson, wednesdayschild2

I write what I feel. And I rarely know exactly what I feel until I write. I have lived long enough to have known many joys and many sorrows. I have made many mistakes; I have forgiven myself for a few… I have learned that there are lessons in every step of this journey, if we only take the time to pay attention… I hope you will feel free to pick and choose the stories that resonate for you…

6 thoughts on “Remembering to Thank the Volunteers”

  1. The world is able to function and is a better place because of volunteers, people who wish to help in some manner just because they wish to… to help make life a little better for others… the world would be a dark place without them…. thanks for sharing!!… 🙂

    “At the end of the day people won’t remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.” Maya Angelou

    Liked by 4 people

  2. I was a volunteer for Hospice Of The Western Reserve. They called us unpaid employees and were constantly having events and get togethers to thank and honor us. This organization treats their volunteers like royalty because they are so grateful. Pay or no pay, this was my true career and calling. I loved every moment of it. I saved every thank you note which the families of my patients sent me. This job was truly rewarding and brought me great joy.

    Liked by 3 people

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