By Philip Case
Throughout 2018, I have had the privilege to interview and write about some of the most incredible people in our community for the Wednesday “Volunteer Spirit” feature. I’m looking forward to sharing the stories of more volunteers in the upcoming year — your friends, neighbors and, perhaps even, you.
For the final installment of the year, I was given the green light to focus on the “spirit” aspect of the feature.
Throughout the process of interviewing and spending numerous afternoons crafting their narratives, I’ve been impressed, humbled, concerned and motivated as their stories unfolded. While each volunteer is unique, there are common threads running through their stories. Below are just a sampling.
- A desire to give back. This sentiment was prevalent in most stories, “I want to give back for what I’ve been given.” Whether it was a few hours given by a working mom or dad or more by a retiree, all felt giving back to be an opportunity, a privilege — not an obligation.
- A way to say thanks. Regardless of whether it is a parent who had sacrificed during their growing-up years or someone who’d left an impression and inspiration by giving selflessly, many volunteers dedicate themselves to paying it forward.
- An abiding desire to help others and the community. They serve lunch at the soup kitchen, stock the shelves at the food pantry, beautify areas of town, help the homeless, victims of human trafficking or domestic violence. Their desire to help is pervasive.
- Sharing of talents and experiences. Some have impressive resumes but all have huge hearts. They could have chosen to live quietly in our town without giving of themselves and their time, yet none did. Several donate their well-earned retirement time. Others give their precious free time away from work and family. But they all give.
Faith in action
The vast majority of volunteers mentioned involvement in a church or spiritual organization. None wore faith as some sort of medal but rather reflected its tenets acting as motivators. Find a church or other spiritual body and you’ll find volunteers.
One who exemplified this in a manner reflecting humility and dignity was Dr. John Paul Broderson. I interviewed him in the spring and he died suddenly in the fall while out walking with his dog.
In subsequent interviews after his death, others cried as they remembered his giving spirit, his desire to connect people of all faiths — or no faith. He possessed a willingness to reach out to the imprisoned, down-trodden and disenfranchised without “preaching” to or judging them.
Donna Jackson’s involvement with human trafficking was, frankly, frightening since it goes on right here in our town. Sherry Harrod uses her own experience as a victim of domestic abuse to help others.
These subjects reflect, as I wrote at time, the “seamy underbelly of our society.” One might ask why anyone would want to give volunteer time helping in areas so “dark.” But after talking to these folks, hearing and seeing the passion in their voices and you’ll know why.
Across most of the last half-century I have been involved in one way or another in journalism, from sports writer to newspaper editor — most of it here at Your Hometown Newspaper.
I have met and written about hundreds, more likely thousands, and now I’m moved again by the spirit of these volunteers and wondering where I can give of my time to make the lives of others better.
The vast majority said they didn’t feel worthy of a story, wanted to know why I didn’t choose someone else. I convinced them their story is worth sharing, that they are the “spirit” of volunteering.
Perhaps their stories will inspire others in 2019 to give and to share. These are your friends and neighbors, working freely to make life in our hometown better.