This one goes out to the ones I love: volunteers.
Sure, it’s National Volunteer Week, but what really pushed me to write this blog was a traffic jam on Wednesday.
I was on the way into downtown DC, but our area has plenty of winding back roads, and I found myself stuck in a long line of cars pretty far back from an intersection. I couldn’t see what the issue was, but I saw that the line was moving. Whatever it was, some kind of progress was happening.
When I got up closer to the intersection, I saw that a pair of cars were pulled off to the side of the road, following what appeared to be a minor fender bender. Nobody seemed to be hurt, but obviously it was a high-stress situation for everyone involved, including those in the long lines of traffic that extended in every direction.
In the middle, though, was this guy. Or, I should say, this volunteer.
Standing in the middle of this messy intersection was a man directing traffic with precision and skill. He was in jeans and a polo shirt, but he had the solid posture and total confidence of someone in charge. Maybe he was an off-duty police officer, maybe he was in the military, but he was definitely the clear-headed authority in a tangle of stress and confusion.
He was a volunteer.
When it was my turn to pass through the intersection, I rolled down my window to give him a loud “Thank you!”
“You’re welcome,” he said.
From this description, maybe it sounds like this guy was just naturally bossy and wanted to be in the middle of things. Maybe it sounds like he was taking an unnecessary risk, putting himself in harm’s way. I think the reality is that he saw something that needed to be done and he stepped in.
Service: It’s what you do
This is what volunteers do. From identifying an issue to taking action, volunteers are driven by a desire to be helpful. I’ve been volunteering for most of my life, and I’ve seen people give more than seemed possible for little to no reward. Sometimes it’s an individual effort, and sometimes it’s a non-profit organization that just gets it.
From Girl Scouts to Peace Corps, and with the Literacy Council of Northern Virginia and Casey Trees, I’ve seen so many volunteers give in so many different ways. Giving means sharing time, sharing skills, and sharing resources. Within the last year, we’ve conducted a warm clothing drive for Cornerstones and a blood drive for the American Red Cross, we’re delivering for Meals on Wheels in our local community, and we’re always looking for more ways to be of service.
Service is one of our key values at SoGoSurvey, and it’s one of my personal priorities. To the man directing traffic, thank you. To the invisible forces that make so many things work better, thank you. To volunteers everywhere: Thank you!