Friday, February 27, 2009

Volunteer Extraordinaire!

I decided to write a blog about people who do good things in the world, and to share some of my own observations in that realm. Sometimes I happily choose to do the right thing; other times I don't. There are people around us, and we all know at least one or two, who always seem to be able to go the extra mile in doing good. One of the many dedicated volunteers at my work consistently gives of herself, but due to extreme humility she'll be mortified if I use her name--we'll just call her Wonder Girl.

You can compare Wonder Girl to people in your midst, maybe even guess who she really is. She is a real person, but she is also a symbol of selflessness and of someone who is so content with her own life that she has much to give to others. Wonder Girl is a satisfied person; she is neither the richest, the flashiest, nor the most outspoken. Her self-esteem comes from her quick thinking, her creativity and her unhesitating work-ethic. She is a worrier (yes, a warrior, too!), like me; but she worries about those around her, not herself. She has gone from a meeting where we talked about a tiny little idea, to execution of that idea within hours--sometimes even minutes!

We cannot all be like Wonder Girl. She appears to live a life of such simplicity and organization that it would take me the rest of my life to assimilate. However, there is much to learn from people like her; they are a special breed. Their efforts are usually based on passion to see
a concept, an organization, or a community succeed. The things that motivate them are different from what drives the average person: affiliation with the cause, personal growth, and camaraderie are just a few. If you've ever had the chance to work with someone like this, you might have felt their contagious enthusiasm. Volunteers influence the happiness of those around them. According to a recent study published in September, 2004 by the British Economic and Social Research Council, "there is a strong link between communities with lots of volunteering and those where people are very satisfied with their lives," (see Links).

Perhaps this is the connection we see with certain people around us who are always happy. The synergy between many individual volunteers can make the community a happier place. The British study confirms, "The research has revealed an interesting link between helping others and enjoying a good quality of life. It seems that when we focus on the needs of others, we may also reap benefits ourselves. It means that voluntary activity in the community is associated with better health, lower crime, improved educational performance and greater life satisfaction." According to the data, it is not a higher standard of living that promotes quality of life; rather giving of ourselves for the greater good.

I'm no expert, just an observer. But when I see someone like Wonder Girl in action and smiling every day, it makes me want to be more like her and the others I know who are truly Volunteers Extraordinaire.

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