My spouse, one of the most self-giving, compassionate persons I know, had volunteered for an “Adopt a Senior Adult” program in the community where we were living.
The goal of this program was for volunteers to adopt senior adults who were living alone and without immediate caregivers in the community. My wife chose one such elderly lady in her late 80s. She had no family members nearby to look after her or even willing to call her on a regular schedule.
My wife’s calls were on a daily and regular basis. Her adopted senior adult could count on her. She knew someone was just a phone call away if she needed her to drop by for simple, caring conversation.
On one fateful day my wife made her usual scheduled phone call and got no answer. Her response was immediate. She stopped what she was doing and rushed to her adopted senior adult’s home as quickly as possible. She found her friend lying on the floor, unable to move, but conscious, and having soiled herself because she couldn’t move.
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While waiting for the EMS workers to arrive, my wife took to the task of cleaning and washing her elderly friend, seeking to protect her dignity.
This story had a positive ending. But what if? What if no one had cared? What if no one had volunteered? My guess is this story would have had a much different ending.
I ran across a quote that went something like this: “Volunteering is the ultimate exercise in compassion and democracy. You vote in elections each year, but when you volunteer, you vote every day for the kind of community in which you want to live.”
In many places, big government and welfare have fallen out of political favor. But if state and federal programs for the poor, elderly and children are cut, one must ask, “Who, then, will care for these, the most vulnerable of our citizens?”
Having been executive director of one nonprofit in Johnston County and now the vice president of another, I know the joys and struggles of enlisting volunteers and soliciting donations from businesses and corporations in our county to underwrite the essential programs that meet the needs of our most vulnerable neighbors.
Johnston County has dozens of nonprofit groups, and all need the skills and experience that you, the citizens of our county, possess. To the businesses and corporations of our county, make giving to these nonprofits a priority.
If you do not want big government doing the task of taking care for the “least of these,” then might I suggest you become a part of the answer, the solution, and not remain a part of the problem.
Remember, volunteering is the ultimate exercise in compassion and democracy.
The writer lives in Princeton. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.