Navigating Health and Aging: Volunteers truly make a difference every day

As I sat down to write an article about Parkinson's disease for this week's column, I watched as the events of Boston's catastrophe unfold.

I wondered how I could write as usual while showing some respect to the tragedy at hand. I consulted my son and my article critic, "What should I write about?" I was experiencing writer's block given the situation. His response, "Write about something positive."


Wise advice, but how does one find hope and anything positive to say while watching such senseless, heinous acts of hatred and violence? And then I saw the volunteers. These volunteers who by definition gave their effort, talent and time to a need or cause without profiting monetarily. In fact, these volunteers went beyond thinking about themselves to risk their lives to help those injured at the finish line.

April happens to be National Volunteer Month and there are many volunteers we have witnessed who exemplify the meaning of volunteerism.

People who sprang into action without concern for their own safety. People who moved barricades and held people who were injured and in shock.

People who pitched in to offer help whether it be providing a safe place to stay, a meal or a phone to communicate with loved ones.

People who started websites, as a way to check in and communicate and keep loved ones connected. Crisis and disasters show us that while evil and hatred exist in the world, kindness and love does ultimately prevail.

Fortunately, we don't have to watch tragedy on the news to see everyday volunteerism at work.

My favorite definition of volunteering is seen all around us: An altruistic activity intended to promote good to improve human quality of life. It produces a feeling of self-worth and respect with no financial gain.

Volunteers keep our society going. We are greeted by them every day. Whether it be by the hospital volunteer at the front desk, or the volunteer in the hospital gift shop, the volunteer at your children's school, or the driver who drops off Meals-on-Wheels to those who are in danger of being hungry. Volunteers are everywhere, every day.

Recently I got out of bed on a beautiful March morning to run in the Celtic Chanter, a 3.1 mile run through the streets of Westminster, organized by a volunteer, Dr. Patrick Gallagher and his family. Volunteers showed up to help with the run who were supporting causes to which race monies were being donated.

The list of volunteers goes on and on. Our own community is full of volunteers who provide transportation for those who need assistance, help around an aging person's home, perform spring clean-ups and deliver groceries. The list goes on and on and on!

Caring Carroll has volunteers who offer a host of services. Habitat for Humanity has volunteers that help with home repairs. Again the list goes on and on. If I have not listed your niche, it is only because I have a word limit. I could fill pages with acts of kindness and compassion shown toward our fellow human beings.

It is with a heavy heart that I write this article, and as I ache for those who have lost their lives, or family members, or life as they once knew it. I know that there will be a volunteer out there to offer a hand, provide a meal or offer hope. Society will "keep on keeping on" with the will and determination of those volunteers who will continue to pitch in and prove that while the bad guys may get more attention for the moment. In the end, it is always the good guys who make the true difference.

Thank you to all the volunteers who quietly make a difference in all of our lives.