For me it took some discipline but I was able to forge volunteering time into my schedule. I made it a priority and once I did, then a feeling of peace followed. When I’m volunteering my mind seems to let go of the clock and all that is required of me. In other words, I’m not thinking about other things I should be doing rather than volunteering. Humanitarian issues are issues close to my heart. And I find that volunteering to help others in their time of need allows me to express who I really am – a person that cares.
After more than a decade in the military and seeing how destructive armed conflicts can be, I discovered a way to quiet my soul via volunteering. I’ve been a volunteer with the American Red Cross for several years. I’m on a disaster team, that means I go with a team into the affected area right after the disaster. We help people affected by the catastrophe by providing shelter, food, basic healthcare and the ability to, hopefully, reconnect with displaced family members.
Helping others after a destructive event has given my life a sense of deeper purpose. Even though the work can be exhausting (we typically work more in excess of 10 hrs. a day on a deployment) yet, the work is rewarding on a higher level than a paycheck. I wouldn’t want to be paid for what I do on a deployment. While on the ground in the aftermath of disaster my mind isn’t distracted by how many hours I put in and how much money that time translates into.
In the wake of an emergency the essential needs become equally scant and dire. Things we take for granted, like; our health, water, shelter, sanitation, livelihoods, and safety are wiped away quickly during a disaster. It’s priceless for me when we find a family and get them into a shelter, set up the cots and get them some food after they’ve been through a life-threatening event. When the victims look me in the eye and say ‘Thank you’ I don’t only hear their gratitude, I feel it in my soul. There is no amount of money worth helping others that are truly in need. The reward is knowing that I made difference with my efforts. I feel like when we take out of the equation we get down to the real human experience. I’m grateful that I have the ability to serve others.
If you are interested in getting involved with the American Red Cross, check out this link for local opportunities and how you can help:
While in the military I was a medic and I had sat with men dying. Death is a moment that has a heavy impact on a person. Further, being with someone during their time of transition from life into death are filed with distinct moments. In my opinion, being there, being present in those moments are some of the most important moments in a person’s life. I haven’t met a person that said they want to be alone when they die. Most of us hope to be comforted when our time has come. I’ve been there and heard the last wishes of many, and I’m honored that they trusted me enough to have me there when they passed on.
After leaving the military I became a volunteer with Hospice. I realized that the death of a person is a significant moment that not many people can endure. The human emotion takes over and prevents many people from being able to comfort the dying. I say there two beautiful moments in a person’s life – when they are born and that moment when the spirit leaves the body. The act of dying can be ugly, but the moment the spirit takes leave of the physical body, that moment is a beautiful moment. You can see the earthly burdens fall away, dissolve into nothingness, and what is left on the physical body is usually a look of relief. And if your mind is open to it, you can see the energy of the soul transition from the living and move into the Spirit World.
Volunteering with hospice is immensely rewarding. Hospice is a form of remedy for a difficult and often depressive time for patients and their families. Hospice goals match mine, that is to provide comfort, peace, quality of life, and a promise that the patient won’t die alone. I have a passion to care for others and make a real tangible difference in the lives of others. Although at times it can be challenging, I do my best to walk in with a smile on my face carrying a positive outlook in hopes to uplift my hospice patients and their family during their difficult time. It’s a tremendous gift and blessing to see a smile in return. The spirit of hospice is born from a genuine desire to give comfort, peace, and care to patients, caregivers and families during the end of life. The volunteers I’ve met have an incredible impact on the lives of the patients that they serve. I’ve witnessed time and again the hospice team quickly, and positivity, impact the lives the patient as well as the patient’s family. The volunteers are a big part of what makes hospice valuable. It is the unique life perspective and personalities of the hospice team that make the transition for life into death much easier for the patient. It’s a compassionate end-of-life journey that we take with our patients.
It’s my opinion, that this end-of-life journey be one that is strictly volunteer. I would feel very guilty if I got paid to do this kind of work. I believe the work of the soul is priceless and shouldn’t have any monetary exchange. I sit with the dying, not obligated in anyway, and therefore I am present mentally and physically for a fellow human that is in their most vulnerable moments.
If you are interested in donating or ways to get involved with Hospice care, I invite you to check out this link:
Hospice Foundation of America | Ways to Help