Once a year on Labor Day we recognize workers and the importance of what they do. As my Dad always told me, “All work is important.” I was raised to respect everyone from the janitor to the corporate executive. Believing as my father did, I have tried to transfer this appreciation to my children. Work is what makes our towns, cities, and country run, and many times all these things are done unseen and we must value that when we turn on the faucet, someone is behind that water pouring into our glasses.
There are also those who work for free – the precious volunteers who serve in hospitals, schools, nursing homes, churches, museums, and businesses. Sometimes these people too are unseen; however, their efforts are essential to the organizations fortunate enough to have their services.
The importance of volunteering has been well documented and those individuals who work for free are indispensable. Many non-profits such as churches, soup kitchens, libraries, and museums could not function without their services.
There is something of a quid pro quo in volunteer service – it also provides intangible benefits to the volunteer. Among them, studies show that there is a direct correlation between volunteering and good health.
Over the past two decades we have seen a growing body of research that indicates volunteering provides individual health benefits in addition to social benefits. This research has established a strong relationship between volunteering and health: those who volunteer have lower mortality rates, greater functional ability, and lower rates of depression later in life than those who do not volunteer (Livestrong.com).
Anyone who has volunteered at the church barbecue or spent the day at the local nursing home helping seniors knows that feeling that overcomes you on the way home. You are thrilled to have been of service, to have done a good deed, and this overwhelming sense of accomplishing for others is definitely a satisfyingly intangible compensation compared to a paycheck.
My first experience with volunteering was when my mother volunteered in my school’s library, which was staffed by one overloaded librarian who definitely needed help. My Mom and other mothers spent a day or two a week there doing everything that the librarian could not do – I know Mom enjoyed the experience because she would be smiling ear-to-ear on those days when she took me home.
Over the years I have seen the hard work of volunteers. As a school administrator, I was often impressed by their professionalism, dedication, and level of excellence that matched or many times exceeded that of my paid employees. To say that our school needed them would be an understatement – we could not have functioned without them.
I have witnessed volunteers in other places too – in hospitals, nursing homes, and museums. In all cases they rise to the occasion again and again. I have also recognized those same kinds of big smiles that my Mom had as they went about their routines – absolute proof that volunteering is good for them too!
This Labor Day think about volunteering. There are web sites such as Volunteer Match that will help connect you with an organization that is right for you. It is never too late to get started – there are octogenarians working in my church that would run circles around most of us. So what better day is there than today to get started on the road to helping others and feeling better as well?
Let us give three cheers to the volunteers we see and those who are unseen. They are everywhere and keep the gears turning all over the country. Their efforts should be recognized and valued as much as paid workers; if you have the opportunity, thank a volunteer today!
Photo credits: Wikipedia, mountvernonpublic library, linkedin
[amazon template=iframe image&asin=0996228705]