People I have met that have impressed me the most, are almost always individuals who give unlimited of themselves in some volunteer capacity. The act of choosing to share one’s time, knowledge, energy, resources, conviction, or compassion is the greatest gift one can offer others. At the same time, the giver receives an indescribable joy back, which is incomparable with most other activities.
Before we moved to Spain, I worked for an international organization that taught life-saving surgical skills to health workers in Africa. I had the pleasure of meeting some incredible people who inspired everyone around them. Take Paul, a paediatric spinal surgeon who spent most of his vacations teaching in Africa and operating on children with spinal injuries in Bhutan – voluntarily and out of his pocket. It is incredible how some people can simply give and give without ever seeming to run out of compassion for others!
It is easy to feel powerless with all the cruelties that humans cause each other these days, but regardless of what happens, we can always help others in our own, perhaps humble and limited, ways. Giving back is part of their daily routine for some people, whether they scrub pots in a soup kitchen, do nature clean-ups, care for unwanted animals, offer a hand to an elderly person crossing the street, sign a petition or found an NGO. Whatever we do to improve the lives of others or create a better society at large, is a step in the right direction. As Mother Theresa said, “We call cannot do great things, but we can all do small things with great love”.
The last couple of years have been a great trial for many, and our challenges are not over. It is increasingly difficult to hold onto the faith that there are more good people than evil ones in this world. But even if the abyss feels menacingly near, at least I will continue to donate my quarter pint of blood a couple of times a year, fight tirelessly for the environment and carry the shopping bags for our elderly neighbours.
A volunteer act is good for the soul, enriches our lives, gets us out of the sofa, and perhaps even out of our comfort zone. It forces us to meet new people, expand our social circle, increase our communication and language skills, and learn new abilities. Volunteering brings joy to the giver and the receiver – whether we are helping another human being, an animal, or a tree.
The most important thing is perhaps not what we do to help, but whether do something to help others.