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December 07, 2016
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From ‘me’ to ‘we;’ Volunteerism, a noble calling

Around a quarter of all adult Americans do some kind of volunteer work. Sadly, only 20.6% of New York State (NYS) residents volunteer, ranking NYS 50th among the 50 states and Washington, DC. Pennsylvania ranked 29th among the states with 26.7% of residents volunteering (www.volunteeringinamerica.gov). We were particularly disappointed to see how poorly both of these two neighbors faired in the category of “residents participating in public meetings”—only 8.4% for PA and 8.5% for NYS.

In these times, when it is commonplace to complain about the direction of the country, or perhaps the problems in your own municipality or your own neighborhood, why not become a volunteer yourself to address the issues you see? Find yourself a purpose—whether large or small. Make some contribution to someone beyond the realm of your own immediate life and your own family. Do something for someone who will never be able to pay you back. Nurture your own civic spirit to address those unaddressed needs where you live. Express your compassion or your generosity by lending a hand where it’s needed. Remember that everyone can serve.

Once upon a time in frontier America when a family needed a barn and had limited labor and other resources, the entire community gathered to help them build the barn. In a way, this proud rural tradition is alive and well in America today nurtured by those who volunteer, whose each small act of caring makes an impact. And finally, one of the magnificent mysteries of volunteering is that when you help someone else, you help yourself by making a difference in your own life. As Ghandi said, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”

Next week the Retired Senior Volunteers Program will honor some of the bright lights of volunteerism in Sullivan County. But remember, these seniors represent only a small portion of all the volunteers that influence the fabric of our local communities. And so, to all of the volunteers we gratefully acknowledge you for your selfless contributions to the communities in the Upper Delaware River Valley. Thank you.