Volunteering has biggest payoff

I visit the local hospital on a regular basis to receive a special medication. Each time, I’m greeted by volunteers. They wear pink along with a friendly smile, and are willing to provide any assistance I might need.

One of my daughters is a March of Dimes director, and many volunteers help her in the quest to raise funds to support research, community services, education and advocacy to help babies get a healthy start in life.

As we look around at what has been dubbed the “Gimme Generation,” I’m thinking maybe we’re just not noticing the “How Can I Help” members of it. They all seem to have a couple of attributes in common — the gratification and pleasure from being involved in something bigger than themselves and the desire to make a difference for good with no expectation of payment or reward.

I’ve decided to take a closer look at these folks. It turns out we are a nation of volunteers. They are all around us. Those with special skills (doctors, nurses) we often notice and thank, but every day quiet volunteers do small acts of service and caring — clearing trash, helping a neighbor get rid of the weeds in her yard.

The 4-H program couldn’t exist without the many volunteers who provide leadership and learning opportunities for youngsters in project areas as diverse as baking, livestock raising, rocketry, sewing and many more.

When I was a 4-H leader we had a day of baking at the local 4-H center’s kitchen. We had a terrific group of volunteers that day. They gave the kids the recipes, showed them where to find the ingredients and then got out of the way. They were making cakes — chocolate of course; you’ve gotta have chocolate when kids are doing the cooking.

One youngster’s cake looked fine, but it tasted really bad. He was totally bummed after he offered it to his buddies and noticed they only ate one bite, then drank a lot of milk and did not say, “That’s really good.” He tried it himself.

Yuck!

Almost in tears he asked one of the volunteer leaders to taste it. She managed not to lose her smile, but she suggested they read his recipe again and maybe he could recall what he put in the batter. They lined up the ingredients on the counter and went over his mixing one by one. When they came to the sugar he said, “I only put one teaspoon of that. Next in line was the canister of salt. “I put a cupful of that,” he said.

The mystery was solved. The volunteer suggested maybe he consider tasting to make sure next time since salt and white sugar look alike.

The beauty of that cooking class was the youngster learned something on his own. It wasn’t read to him or shown in a video. I know he valued that lesson because years later, all grown up, he walked up to me, smiled, and said, “I always taste the sugar.”

Therein lies the payoff for volunteers.