Bill Berger says he learned the importance of volunteering from his parents. He watched them lead by example and now that he’s a parent, he realizes that he can pass that along to his children too. He says with busy lives, it’s hard to find time to donate to others, but the benefits to both the recipient and the giver are real.
Here’s Bill Berger with his essay for KUHF’s This I Believe.
“It is in times of crisis that we witness the best in people by helping our fellow neighbor. With this latest crisis, Hurricane Ike, everyone seems to have a story to tell. Most of the stories have a common theme; damaged houses, fallen trees, flooding, and no electricity for several days. Then something truly remarkable happens…someone on a cell phone shouts ‘we just got power at home, why don’t you all come over.’ Others help by standing at distribution centers passing out necessity items to folks in need.
What is it about human nature that promotes sympathy and the eagerness to help our neighbors? Is this what defines greatness? We call it volunteering, missions, stewardship, duty, etc. I think of people like Jesus, the saints, or Mother Theresa. They devoted their lives to giving and helping others, without asking for much in return.
I remember my parents volunteering; from the local swim club to being foster parents. When I was 14 years old, my family provided shelter for three young boys. Those boys are now my step brothers. We are very close and the only difference is that we don’t really look alike.
As an adult I felt compelled to volunteer. I volunteer at our local Catholic church, and I volunteer at the Crisis Intervention of Houston. No, I’m not there every week. Things come up, some valid, some not so valid. There are many other, more dedicated volunteers than me. But I don’t let that bother me. I don’t do this for pride, or just to say that I’ve done it. I do it because of the one time out of 10 when I receive a call from someone contemplating suicide. It is that connection with the caller that drives my spirit. Extending a non judgmental invitation to the caller to let them know that I am there. I’ll stand on that bridge with you; I will listen to your story. What an unequivocal satisfaction to hear a caller say ‘o.k., I promise I won’t do anything drastic tonight.’
I’m reminded of a conversation with my uncle years ago about suicide prevention. His answer was to establish more government funded programs dedicated to work with suicidal people. My response, if everyone would take a bit of time to volunteer, just a few hours a week, where would we be? Perhaps this is the lesson from the truly great dedicated volunteers of the ages. This I believe.”