There are millions of people that volunteer each year, in millions of different locations, and settings. The reasons that people volunteer are numerous, but a common theme is that they want to feel that they are doing good in the world, and giving back to the people that are most in need. Now for some people they are just fine with not doing the most glorious jobs, or donating what little money that they have. At the end of the day, they may receive some thank you’s but they are never truly recognized for the work and effort that they put in. I am sad to say, that this is not for everyone though, and some people out there who volunteer are looking to be the next big hero, and have their 15 minutes of fame. This is fine if you are spending the time and making a difference, but being a hero and having recognition on a grand scale is not what matters the most.
I was never someone who really got into volunteering. I liked to tell myself that I had a busy life, and that I needed to focus on school or sports, and having a divorced household and shaky financial standing was not the easiest and because I never really put much thought about anyone outside of me and my immediate surroundings. When I got to college, that thought process still had not changed, but when saw a flyer in my dorm elevator that changed. It was a flyer about needing volunteers for kids with special needs. Part of my family and some of my friends had been part of Tiny Tim, a similar center where I am from, so for some reason this flyer struck me and changed my view. At the time I decided to begin volunteering, I was actually more busy than I had ever been, but I did not have an outlet to let go of my day to day stresses in a productive way. Then came Ability First, the center for kids with special needs, just a few minutes from school. I took time out of my schedule each week to go and mentor and play with some of the kids there. It was just for one hour a week, but it made a difference in my life, and a difference in the lives of the kids who were there.
One of my favorite moments from my time volunteering here was when I walked in my 5th or 6th week of volunteering and one of the kids that I had been mentoring didn’t notice I had walked in the door. I snuck up behind him, and said “David, aren’t you going to say hi to me?” He quickly turned around and yelled, “Kenny! Now we can play broomball! Who’s team are you going to be on, mine I hope!” Those few, but loud sentences, made my day and really showed to me that volunteering is worth it. It may not be the most glamorous, you may never be honored for it, or thought of as a national hero, but for a few people they will think of you as a hero, and that is all that matters.
I came across a similar story of a volunteer fire fighter. His name is Mark Bezos and he works at the non-profit Robinhood, fighting poverty in New York City. In his spare time though he volunteers as a fire fighter and is always eager to see his work recognized by others. He recounts how he was always eager to get the biggest assignments, so that he could seem the most heroic. However, one day while volunteering at a house fire, a counter part of his is asked to go save a dog, a daring and heroic act that will certainly be in his stories that he tells at parties. Mark is asked to retrieve a pair of shoes for the homeowner, not a glorious task by any means, a dogged mission if you will, pun intended.
Mark dutifully retrieves the pair of shoes and delivers it back to the homeowner waiting outside, and she hardly notices because she is busy playing with her dog, that they other volunteer had saved. A couple weeks later though, all the firefighters real and volunteer, are thanked by the homeowner for their work. One of the things that she found the most inspiring though, was that one of the firefighters actually took the time and effort to get her, her pair of shoes. What this showed him, was that no good dead, no matter how small, goes unnoticed. He also realized that because of this, you should never wait around till you get the big chance to become an amazing hero for the world, you should always go out and try to be a hero, even on the small things, because to one person you may be the best hero there is.