Becoming a volunteer has proved to be one of my life's most deeply gratifying experiences. There is the perception that the volunteer is the one who gives, but I remain convinced that it is the volunteer who receives even more. In an everyday world where many of us lament the loss of a sense of community there is sustenance to be found in the force for good of like-minded people who share a common purpose and know the personal value of contribution. In his book 'How Are We To Live?' Ethics in an age of self-interest, Peter Singer suggests getting out into the world and doing something worthwhile and thereby supports the view that the symbiotic cycle of offering and receiving casts a glorious and essential light upon the search for meaning in life and one's own health and wellbeing, and provides a tangible frame of reference for refining constantly evolving personal values.
Three years ago I became a volunteer in Palliative Care. In the supportive and loving environment of Calvary, I found that pre-occupations of a material life are so often replaced by engagement at a deeper and more rewarding level. In companionship with individuals facing the end of their lives I have learned, healed and grown from the wisdom in our conversations. As a member of a volunteer group I have discovered a true sense of belonging. Volunteers complement work carried out by paid staff and thus extend the level of care which may be provided. I am heartened and affirmed in a singular way in the work I do as a volunteer which underlines the importance to me.
I recall the words to me of a Buddhist monk that every tiny grain of sand adds up to a desert and if not for each small drop of water the ocean could never exist. In my opinion it is volunteers who work modestly and invisibly who are the greatest heroes. Much of contemporary thinking holds the limited view that success is equal to money and its consequent rewards but in the act of volunteering I am reminded that genuine success is measured in myriad ways.
As a volunteer in middle age in Palliative Care, for me the rewards are to discover by close personal experience and communication the true meaning of time-honoured words and ideas and to reveal for myself the integrity of old-fashioned values. I am granted an ongoing opportunity for spiritual growth yielding the greatest pleasure. However, the path of volunteering runs long and wide and may be joined at any step. There is a unique and bountiful place for any of us who seek to find one.
Calvary Health Care Sydney - Volunteer