volunteerism- how to pay up what you owe

My mother and father spent tens of hundreds of hours in volunteer activities that benefited the community where they lived most of their lives.

So engrained was their habit of volunteerism, their grave marker includes this saying: “Service to others is the price you pay for the space you occupy.” Carved in stone! Both were active volunteers in the church. But there is an extreme example of volunteerism: My mother taught water safety classes and adapted aquatics for 60 years as a Red Cross Volunteer. The only thing that involved her attention as long was her marriage, which lasted 71 years, until my father died November 4, 2008.  So grateful was the community that the City Council past a resolution  to name the bath house at the new swimming pool after her, an honor rarely given to living people who don’t first fork over a million or so dollars! On the plaque bolted to the front of the bath house: “Service to others is the price you pay for the space you occupy.” Cast in brass!

"Service to others is the price we pay for the space we occupy." Barely seen, the family motto of service to others is carved into the stone of my parent’s gravemarker as well. Place your cursor on the photo….

There’s a pattern there, and a challenge. I am my parents’ child. I live in the community where their good works stand as testament to their character. It is a small town, where I rarely have a day that someone doesn’t say, for example, “Oh, your mother taught me to swim!” Or “Your mother and father helped tile this fellowship hall.” Or, well, you get the idea!

Until they went into the care center half a block north of my apartment, I helped my parents as they became less and less able to take care of their needs. I planted gardens, a great joy, as you can guess if you read the blog before this one. I scooped snow. That had to be a great labor of love, I tell you, because I hated, hated, hated every scoop I pushed off the walk and drive! I mowed grass. I hated that until I bought a push mower. That allowed me to mow in the early, cool morning, bare footed. I raked fall leaves. Those I returned to the garden. I loved improving the soil that way. By the time we had to leave the house, the garden soil was so loose, you could turn it with a little effort and a garden fork. This service to others counts, I suppose, though doesn’t it fall more under “familial duty”? I think so.

I retired January 30, 2009. Now is the time for me to pay the price for the space I occupy!

4 thoughts on “volunteerism- how to pay up what you owe

  1. I feel that way! Thanks for the observation. As I’ve mentioned, there was a big training air base here during WWII. People trained here rode the gliders or parachuted into Normany of D-Day. The spirit of volunteerism could very well be a legacy of that local experience since the base was large enough that locals were very involved in providing services and friendship to the people who cycled through training and the lonmger term staff.

    • I was blessed with wonderful parents. Now that both are gone, I think about the legacy they left each of us “kids”, my sister , brother, and me.

      My father was one of the founders of the local senior center, which I didn’t mention above, and it provides nuitrition, transportation, social activities, a meeting place for organizations like AARP and RSVP, and many other senior services.

      Dad’s inspiration was an older brother who lived in Denver and who, as an attorney, spent his retirement years providing legal services and advocacy for seniors in that city. (Also, he was a pain in the Colorado legislature’s butt on senior issues!)

      Health issues limit me a bit, but even a beat up fellow can help the local military museum stay open by volunteering to spend every Thursday afternoon there, holding down the fort. I also have driven veterans (arranged through RSVP) to doctor’s appointments, to catch a bus, and to meet up with family in places they couldn’t otherwise go to because of limited public transportation in this area.

      My town has an extensive net of volunteers of all ages, so it isn’t just my family “saving the world” ! This culture of volunteerism is one reason I enjoy living where I do.

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