Volunteers are the lifeblood of our country and have been since its inception. It is a sign of compassion and caring. I have to admit that I once took volunteers and their contributions for granted. Many years ago, when my husband was in intensive care for a few weeks, my family practically lived in the hospital. I remember covering my sleeping children with colorful, warm lap robes and blankets that had been donated to the hospital. I never took note of who had donated them, but that act of kindness by strangers gave me strength and comfort.

Years later, I joined the Clarence Senior Center and, lo and behold, there were the So-sew ladies knitting these very same items. I learned that they, and other volunteers, not only donate numerous handmade items to hospitals, but also to shelters and nursing homes. They have been doing it for years. I was finally able to thank them for giving my family comfort so many years ago.

Think about how many hundreds of people these caring individuals have touched by their simple acts of kindness, and how many thousands of people they must have influenced by their unselfish example. Acts of compassion have a rippling effect and often turn back upon themselves to touch a person when they least expect it but are in need. That’s the way our country is; that’s what makes it so great – the little people doing the things that mean so much to so many.

Volunteers come together on a daily basis, not just during disasters. They never ask for recognition, and seldom get it. They don’t miss this recognition because they volunteer from the heart and feel that satisfaction in a job well done is reward enough. They are in our lives on a daily basis, from birth to death, as they welcome the mothers who give birth and comfort the mourners who attend to the dying – even unto the grave, for they tend the cemeteries with their flowers, flags and ceremonies.

Not all volunteers are senior citizens with time on their hands. Many are young parents who struggle with the absence of free time and financial resources. Yet they give willingly of their time and talents to teach the values of sportsmanship, healthful exercise, the beauty of nature, the joys of religion, the wonder of books, the value of education and, most importantly, the need for compassion and understanding. They are in our religious, financial, educational, political and recreational life. Just as they were influenced by the generation before them, they influence the next generation.

So when you see someone volunteering, please say thank you or simply smile your recognition of their contributions. Be patient if they are harried, offer to help if you can, remember them in your prayers and speak of their contributions so they are recognized for the valuable services they give so freely. Most of all, honor them by volunteering yourself in some way, no matter how small. It does make a difference. You will find that one small act of kindness often does more for you than the recipient.

There are numerous volunteer opportunities available in institutions all over the city. Make a few phone calls, talk to people and soon you can be on your way to a rewarding, satisfying and fun volunteer situation. You will make new friends and add value to your own life while helping others.