Growing up in a small town in North Carolina, our large Sunday dinners were full of life. I remember listening to my grandmother reminisce about life before technology. Catching sight of my cousins fighting for piping hot biscuits as my grandfather pulled them out of the oven using his old dark red mitt. And tip toeing quietly down the stairs and sitting just out of sight, so I could watch my aunts and uncles vigorously debating over who was going to win the playoffs.
Though the words volunteer or kindness never crossed their lips, their actions taught me everything I needed to know about how to treat others. I saw my grandparents making extra food and to-go plates with large heaping servings for our neighbor, Mrs. Grace. I watched my cousins with their sly devilish smiles and crumbles scattered everywhere, breaking biscuits into pieces to share with one another. I eavesdropped as my aunts and uncles offered each other positive affirmations and unconditional support between football quarters. I witnessed over and over again, what it meant to love another as I love myself.
As I have moved through life, I have tried to take those lessons of benevolence, sharing, and unconditional support with me. Whether through volunteering or work opportunities, I have found that no two volunteers look alike, feel the same way, or see the world in the same light, but they all share the same passions. A passion to connect, a passion to give, and most importantly, a passion to make something better than how they found it. It’s those passions that turn strangers into fast friends and allows folks to unite while doing some incredibly challenging work.
On this MLK day, a day where service has a special meaning to many, I think about my amazing experiences with volunteers and the lessons they taught me. How compassion for ourselves increases our compassion for others. How a small gift of generosity can lift the largest burden from our neighbor’s shoulder. And how a good hearty laugh can be the brightest ray of sunshine in someone’s day. Though we can all define volunteerism in our own unique way, if I were given the opportunity of rewriting Webster’s definition I would simply say, “It’s using your passion to put kindness into action.”
If you are interested in learning about ways you can volunteer at REACH, please contact Christian at Christian@reachma.org