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Let's hear it for volunteers

September 7, 2011

If I could entertain your attention for a bit, I have a story to tell.
Once upon a time there was a nurse called out for a check-up on a home health patient to see if the woman should go to the hospital. Yes, the nurse was getting paid, as this was her job, but I know very few people who would sign up to serve in the medical field for free (and I have yet to meet a rich LPN or RN, for that matter).
It was in the middle of winter, on those nights were the sun goes down about 5 p.m. The woman lived with her daughter off of the Orin-Rice road, several miles off an unpaved county road. The two had recently moved from the west side of the state and were apparently not acclimated to the affect Mother Nature has on travel in rural areas, because as soon as the nurse arrived, the daughter immediately lectured her on the inappropriate length of time it had taken the woman to reach her home.
Ever the professional, the nurse did not respond to the daughter’s criticisms and instead went about her job. The mother, who had a long history of heart problems, had a high blood pressure and was lethargic and confused in her response to medical questions and her face was very pale and sickly. The nurse determined that she should go to the hospital and an ambulance was called.
After the EMTs arrived, traveling over icy roads and snowy conditions, they then had to help the women from her bed because the doorway of her bedroom was too narrow to accommodate a stretcher. The whole time, they were courteous and mindful of their duties, consulting with the nurse and daughter about her medical condition while they placed the woman on the stretcher than took her to be loaded into the ambulance. The woman had began to feel a little better under the ministrations of the nurse and offered her thanks to the EMTs. The daughter, who had nothing ingratiating to offer the entire time except a sour face and criticism, complained of the service at the hands of the EMTs.
“This is ridiculous,” she said to the nurse. “There is no excuse; it took them too long to get here. This would never happen in the city. This is such poor service. I am disgusted.”
The nurse had heard enough. She understood family members who are concerned over a loved one and are afraid and don’t know how to act, but this was too much.
“Those people are volunteers, and they spend time away from their homes and family so they can help others,” the nurse replied politely but forwardly. “They drive in dangerous conditions with no pay to assist people they don’t even know---we are lucky to have them. No offense, but it is not their fault that you decided to move to a mountainside and that it’s winter. If you are displeased with their service, perhaps you should look into volunteering at the sheriff’s ambulance to help them.”
The woman’s rancor wasn’t so evident after that.
Volunteers, whether they are our EMTs, firefighters, or the good-hearted guy who goes down to the Habitat for Humanity Store to re-bag the clothes that have been unscrupulously railroaded through, then just left all over the ground at the donation drop-off, deserve our respect. When someone volunteers their time, they are saying I care about something bigger than myself. I realize that I’m not the only person on this planet and I want to contribute in any way I can.
If you don’t like the way a volunteer service or charity is operated, get involved, read the organization’s bylaws, sign up, contribute.
And if you find yourself unable to do that, then the best thing you can do is say “thank you,” and mean it.
Otherwise, say nothing.
The end.
Thanks for your time.

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