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My View: Volunteering brings joy to others and yourself

By Lori Schwartz

I had changed my clothes four times. What would I wear on my first day? Should I pack a snack? Should I wear my glasses or just have them with me? I am retired but I have a lot more to give and so do you.

After a 33-year career of teaching and four years of using up air miles, today was the day I began the most important work of this stage of life. While holding an overflowing basket of cookies, giving a reassuring smile with an eager willingness to answer questions, the purple jacket and name badge gave away my identity.

I am a volunteer.

“I will be here with you for the next little while. The coffee and cookies are free. The cafeteria is on the first floor. The closest pop machine is right around the corner. I can ask the difficult questions of the staff and get right back to you.”

Stress levels were high, yet my own personal calm surprised me. It was only a few months ago when I sat through the volunteer orientation at a different local hospital. There I had previously spent 2½ years with my ill husband through appointments, surgeries, therapies and any other treatment the brilliant doctors there had suggested.

Following his passing, and wanting so badly to give my volunteer time to them, I just couldn’t. The pain was still too close to my heart and my tear ducts. I never stopped crying through the entire orientation. My apologies go to the others in the room that day and my thanks to the kind gentleman who brought me tissues.

Not wanting to give up, however, I made my way to Women and Children’s Hospital of Buffalo. There I felt able to give. It makes me sad that I was unable to volunteer at Roswell Park Cancer Institute, but I trust my time is valued at WCHOB.

Presuming that many of the most treasured institutions and facilities in our community rely on volunteers, it seems important that each of us discover a way to give our time – no matter how much or how little. It is doubtful that we will ever “find” the time, so we must just do it – take the time to do it, make the time to do it. By focusing on strengths, interests or talents, we, ourselves, add to the quality of life in our community.

Thank you, to everyone who has ever volunteered. You have made my life here in Western New York better.

Volunteering, in any situation, is simply that. Volunteering. I give my time and the institution determines what is most important for me to do while I’m there.

The task itself becomes the least of my concerns. What I’m doing may not look like much, but the truth is, it matters to someone and, by the way, I get more out of it than I give. I feel important.

Life has presented me with a roller coaster ride and now, today, I fastened my seat belt and helped others. It turned out that it really didn’t matter what I wore, I didn’t need or want a snack and I was happy to have my glasses with me.

Volunteering made me feel like an integral part of our community. Surely there are groups, organizations and institutions that would welcome your expertise or your willingness to do whatever they need.

Look into a few and find one that brings you joy. You’ll know it when you see and feel it. You should do this. You’ll be happy you did and you just might get to eat cookies.

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