Volunteering lifts weight off world

Tuesday, April 19, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 10:26 p.m. CDT, Thursday, July 3, 2008

People who consider themselves realists keep telling me that the times we live in are no different than other times past. But I simply can’t remember another time when I have hesitated saying such things as crime doesn’t pay or assuring youth that they will not be molested by a church leader, without providing them proof to convince them. I understand that folks feel it’s important to paint a positive face on our national image.

The preponderance of criminal acts and evil deeds that fill the news is sometimes so overwhelming I’m afraid to trust many of the old truths I once took for granted.

Crime does seem to be paying off for a lot of people, and some working with young people in many walks of life are being charged daily with molestation. Some days, it doesn’t even appear these people are all that few and far between.

For me, it’s always a special pleasure to hear good news. One of the best places to find that kind of news is about volunteers. It seems no matter how bad things get, there is always an amazing number of people who willingly devote their time, energy and money to good causes.

Lately, I admit, I am so desperate for affirmation that good triumphs over evil that everywhere I go, I search for those things which are good, noble and lovely.

I have recently been spending a lot of time on the speaking circuit and am constantly impressed by the amount of work that clubs and organizations do on behalf of their communities. In fact, I really would hate to think what the world would be like without the “do-gooders.”

One of the most distressing stories I’ve heard recently has been about volunteers who may have to abandon their community service because the price of gasoline is becoming of such a great concern .

Now that would be a shame. The concept of neighbors helping neighbors is one of the few remaining values which we brought forward from our agricultural roots.

The tendency to isolate ourselves from one another gains more ground every day. Even the little cubicles in which people huddle over their computers at work are finding their way into homes — which is causing some of us to ask why we moved our office into our house in the first place.

Those not involved with their community tend to be more fearful of their personal safety and less trusting of their neighbors. In attempting to protect themselves from what they view as the dangers of the world, they close their doors to opportunities to experience some of the goodness of life that can only be found by interacting with other human beings.

Volunteer work has given some people a new lease on life. It provides them with new friends, opportunities to spend time on new activities and interests and makes them happier people.

Many who have experienced too many lonely hours have made a path toward self-fulfillment by donating their time to serve others.

Some who were dependent upon their adult children or other family members for companionship have found individuals with whom they have shared interests through volunteering. Many have come to think of their fellow volunteers as their new family.

One friend, who looked forward to early retirement, discovered within the first month that she was bored to tears and felt miserable without her former co-workers and the routine of having somewhere to go and something to do. Within a few days of connecting with an organization, she became a nursing home visitor and was found a new career after retirement.

Trying to make the world a better place seems to be an old-fashioned idea. But, I think our contemporary world is more needful of help than ever.

With Earth Day coming up, maybe some will get the idea that the Earth will, in all probability, replenish much of itself on its own. But the world — if left alone — will probably self-destruct.

So, maybe we should all adopt the concept of “Saving the World.” When I was a kid, I always felt sorry for poor Atlas carrying the weight of the world around on his shoulders. Now, without even a myth to cling to, the world is becoming a scarier place.

Help! Does anyone else have a shoulder to spare?

You can join the conversation with Rose M. Nolen by calling at 882-5734 or e-mailing her at

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