I’ve been asked a few times, by well-meaning friends and neighbours upon learning that I was a regular volunteer at a local vaccination clinic, “Was it just SO REWARDING to have been a part of it?”
And the answer is, of course, YES. Incredibly.
To have played even a tiny part in providing what is, quite literally, a life-saving miracle of science to the community in which I live and work has indeed been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. So, too, has witnessing the passion, commitment, and professionalism of the GPs running these vaccination clinics – some of which administered more than a THOUSAND shots a day – been one of the most humbling experiences of my life (I’m lookin’ at YOU, Dr Razak).
But the truth is that it is the simple act of sacrifice that is most rewarding, almost regardless of the cause. Sacrificing your time, your energy, your expertise, in service of others is truly one of life’s greatest pleasures. And, of course, also one of the simplest. Over the years, I’ve volunteered for a number of causes – community food programmes, women’s health initiatives, LGBQT+ rights, the ethical treatment of animals, and so on. Details which I do not share to self-aggrandise (though by all means, I’m delighted to receive praise for ANY reason), but to illustrate the point that it almost doesn’t matter what you’re giving your time in support of. The simple act of volunteering yourself, with no expectation of anything in return, is truly the most rewarding part. It just… scratches a certain itch within our humanity. It engenders a sense of community, of social cohesion, and brings with it the simple joy of giving.
Kind of like Christmas, but less calorie-laden.
So, this Volunteers Week (or anytime, really, though why not start this week), I encourage you all to look for ways that you can give back to your community, in whatever way floats your individual boat. Love animals? There’s a shelter nearby that could use some assistance. Keen to feed the homeless? They’re always looking for help. A simple Google search can turn up an array of volunteering opportunities to contribute to whatever you deem ‘worthy’, and many companies – iPLATO/myGP include – will give you time off to do so.
And if the last year has taught us anything at all, it’s the true meaning of the old adage, “We’re all in this together”. So here’s hoping that we carry that little nugget of positivity forward and continue looking right and left, as well as inside.
I promise you, the rewards of that simple act, are greater than you can imagine.