Greatest Generation - Volunteerism
by John A
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.