Really great volunteers are hard to come by, and one of my “favorites” just lost his battle with cancer. In Paul’s honor, I want to review what makes a great volunteer.
A great volunteer walks into River City Food Bank with an attitude of gratitude. He appreciates the basic ingredients to a happy life and understand that many folks are simply “one paycheck, one stroke of bad luck” from being in a difficult situation. Another essential is the ability to listen to clients and never “judge” them. Paul was the best. I can still hear his deep voice asking “How can I help you?” He had genuine respect for and interest in every person who sat at his desk. He never met a stranger, only someone in need, and his “job” was to help. When clients preared to leave and began to gather their groceries, it was Paul’s voice that followed them to the door. “Now take care.” No matter how often he said it, I am absolutely sure that he meant it with all his heart.
When Paul becam too ill to work, I called him periodically just to check in. He always hoped he would be able to return to his desk. In the beginning I promised that “his” chair would always be there for him, but that another volunteer would simply keep it warm. One day, after a rather serious conversation about his health, Paul told me something that has stuck with me and becomes more poignant now that he is gone. In all seriousness he said, “You know, I’ve had some good and important jobs during my career, but this is the best job I’ve ever had.”
We should all feel so impassioned.