Greatest Generation - Volunteerism

by John A
(Tyler, TX)

There are not too many things I can agree with Tom Brokaw, former NBC New anchor. He and I just don’t see eye to eye on many things. But for the one topic I do agree with him is about the “Greatest Generation”; the World War II generation.


The Greatest Generation are the folks who made this country great; they pulled together and fought the good fight. And after World War II, they kept on with their tremendous work attitude of getting things done. Not only did they seem to possess a great work ethic and business sense, they also gave back to the community even though they have already given during the war years.

The giving part of the Greatest Generation is their volunteerism. As my wife says, they invented volunteerism and it has been a part of our society since the war against Japan and Germany long ended. Volunteerism is part of the Greatest Generation soul.

Regardless of where we are in each community in America, volunteers have been present; whether it was working for the American Red Cross, churches, hospitals, Habitat for Humanity or the American Cancer Society. You name the agency and chances are there’s a member of the Greatest Generation who is present volunteering and giving back to the community. They've been doing this for years.

That generation has been the most generous and giving part of our society. They are the folks that have been pulling the weight for so many years in providing free services to agencies with limited budgets. What a wonderful testament to our parents and grand parents.

But now, they are quickly fading away. Today, most of these volunteers are in their 70s, 80s and even 90s and still want to be vital parts of our communities. However, the ravages of time are now quickly catching up with them. Many are no longer able to contribute their time because of heath issues attributed to their age. And we are losing a valuable resource in our communities that will never be replaced.

You see, it’s the subsequent generations such as the Baby Boomers, Gen X, Gen Y and the Millennial who have not stepped up to the plate yet to take the place of the Greatest Generation. Hospitals and other social agencies are experiencing a tremendous decline in the number of volunteers helping out. And consequently, a lot of things that were once done by volunteers are no longer being done since these agencies do not have the funding to pay someone to do the necessary work. Nothing is getting done.

Since last year, the hospital where I volunteer has experienced a 50% decrease in the number of volunteers willing to help out. My wife, who is a volunteer coordinator for the county where we live, is experiencing the same situation. In fact, other places like Meals on Wheels and other vitally important social agencies face the same dilemma. The younger generations are not filling the voids and volunteerism is quickly going away.

Many ask why this is happening and there is no single answer. But one of the most predominate lines of thought is that subsequent generations are more narcissistic and do not value giving back to the community. They are too wrapped up in themselves and wonder “what’s in it for me”? But that’s for discussion at a later time.

Instead, for those of you who are retired and feel a void in your life because there is a sense of lack of purpose, volunteering may be the thing to change those feelings. There is something more intrinsic than just collecting a pay check. Being of service to fellow man is highly rewarding to the self and provides a valuable service to someone or agency that needs assistance. It’s about something much bigger; it’s about making this world a better place, particularly in hard economic times all around the country.

When I first started volunteering due to the urging of my better half, I originally thought volunteering was like peeing in your pants; it gave you a warm feeling for a little while, then began to stink. However as time progressed, I saw the simple things I was doing made a difference to the hospital staff and patients. The things I do free up the hospital staff to deal with a greater number of patients in a timely manner. And the patients appreciate someone looking after them when they are not feeling well due to illness or injury. There’s something really rewarding to me when I am able to bring a smile to their face by telling a silly story or corny joke as I take them to get x-rays or to the lab. They are feeling a little apprehensive about their situation and if I can take their minds off their problems for just a second, then it’s worth the time and effort.

Listen folks, there are tons of agencies out there who need your help and many of the younger folks are not willing to take up the slack where help is needed. As a nation we are faced with some really serious problems that no one in Washington is willing to own up to and as citizens we need to do our part for making our place in the world a little better. The situation is dire around the country as far as volunteers are needed and you would be tremendously appreciated.

So, for those of you who are looking for something to do, to learn a new skill, maintain skills and continue to be productive, why not give volunteering a try? It may be the best decision you ever made. Don’t just fade away by not giving back to the community.

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The Stench Didn't Deter Her .....
by: Retd. Prof. Durgesh Kumar Srivastava. C-3, Janakpuri, New Delhi, India

In the mid 1950s, our family lived close to a Hindu Mandir (temple) near the right bank of holy river Ganga in Daraganj locality of Allahabad city in north central India. PUJARI JI, the Hindu priest of the temple, lived in a small cubicle within the temple premises.

One particular summer day, Pujari Ji did not come out of his cubicle as usual in the morning. When someone knocked at the wooden door, locked from the inside, he said in a feeble voice that he was having fever and wanted to be left alone. Next day too, Pujari Ji did not open the door and sounds of labored breathing could be heard from within the locked cubicle. On the third day, there was no sound and a slight foul smell could be felt coming from the inside. The slight smell turned into a strong foul smell on the fourth morning, the neighbors gathered and broke open the door.

There was terrible stench coming from inside the dark room. Someone ventured in wrapping his nose with a scarf and switched on the light. Pujari Ji lay on the floor in one corner, covered with a sheet. The stench was unbearable. No one dared go inside. People suspected that Pujari Ji was dead and began suggesting that the police should be called in.

Amma (my mother) came to the scene and at once called for a big scarf to be brought to her. She rapped her whole face to battle the stench and went inside the cubicle and removed the sheet covering Pujari Ji. She called out my name loudly and asked me to bring a big Chaddar (bed sheet). sayng that Pujari ji was alive and breathing.

Amma was about 40 then and a strong woman. She asked the gathering to clear the way and for a cycle-rickshaw to be called at the temple door. I was then a young boy of less than 10 years or so. I recall how Amma wrapped Pujari Ji in the bed sheet, lifted him up, and took him to the rickshaw. She asked people to keep a distance. There was an Infectious Diseases Hospital on Baghambari Road at a distance of about 2 kilometers from the temple.

I and my older friend Lalla ran behind the rickshaw and then climbed on to the railway embankment which provided a short route to the hospital. We arrived at the hospital before the rickshaw reached there. Amma motioned to us to keep a distance.

Nearly 60 years have passed, but I still recall the scene at the hospital. The young doctor in the emergency ward was aghast to see the patient. He called out loudly .... "this is a very bad case of small pox. You leave the patient here and return home..)"

I am unable to recall what happened in the following days. But one day about two or three weeks later, we spotted Pujari Ji limping back towards the Mandir. As soon as he saw Amma, he fell at her feet, began weeping loudly, and calling out "Amma Amma". Pujari Ji had been cured, He would always call my mother Amma. I am inspired by Amma's example.

D.K.Srivastava,1st March,2014

Volunteering is so rewarding
by: Betty Audet

In Canada the volunteer problem is not yet acute but the same reluctance of younger people to volunteer is noticeable. Many are even afraid to join an organization because they might be asked to assume some responsibility.

My husband spent the war in a Japanese prison camp where he was one of the youngest men and it was very important that he help the elderly who had no medical services.

As soon as he retired, he became a very active volunteer and when he was 92 the Victorian Order of Nurses gave him a gold medal for the whole of Canada. But he also did work for several other organizations and was one of two men as a volunteer at our small local hospital.

I have a wonderful memory of a woman so bent that her nose was almost on her knees. He would get down on his knees to feed her while I looked after two or three others who needed much more limited help. We did not think she could talk but suddenly one day she clearly said thank you to him.

Superior Attitude of the Greatest Generation
by: Brenda

I recognize what the Greatest Generation contributed to America. I also feel that some members of that generation use that label to feel superior to all those who came after them. My father fought in WWII, never kept a job very long while I was growing, never volunteered a day in his life, was bitter, judgmental and resentful.

The Boomer generation - of which I fall into - has volunteered to start the Peace Corp, served in the military and fought in Viet Nam. They put it on the line to change racism, sexism, get the voting age lowered and helped stop an unjust war.

The reason Boomers and generations following them haven't volunteered as much as the Greatest Generation is because they have had to WORK. People work longer than 40 hours a week, women/mothers had to work in order to help pay the bills and put food on the table. Social Security is in jeopardy, company retirement plans have lost money in the depression and some have gone under altogether, and inflation is skyrocketing.

Many do volunteer as they start retiring and more will find their way to volunteering. First they are dealing with the biggest transition of their life and only now is society beginning to realize people need support and guidance through the process of retirement.

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