Where would our country be without volunteers? Volunteers and volunteerism is something I didn’t even realize existed in the world around me. I mean I kind of did when I caught the Jerry Lewis telethon, but I didn’t think about it. Which is a shame because what telethon or fundraiser can exist without volunteers? Without the generous gift of unpaid people giving of their valuable time.

About ten years ago volunteering was introduced to me on two separate levels. The first level was personally. I had moved across the country to be with my future Wifesty (Yvonne) and discovered she practiced volunteerism and community support. She is an ardent member of social outreach groups (Rotary for one) and gives of her time generously.

Giving of time was a concept as foreign to me as speaking ancient Greek or Egyptian. I couldn’t even fathom giving up any of my free time, what little I possessed of it. See, for the majority of my adult life I worked long hours. I mean 12 hours a day, seven days a week, three hundred sixty five days a year.

It’s true. I worked for one company where the first year there, I got three days off. I got five days off the second year. In fact, I would leave a job and go to another when it slowed down. My reputation in the trades was simple. I was known for doing jobs no one else would do, work the hours no one wanted, and not drag up (quit) until the hours slowed down.

Now this led me to quite a few problems in life. One of which was when I got home the only thing I wanted to do was curl up in my recliner, drink some cold soda and relax. Not a healthy thing for a marriage or raising a kid. But it was great for the budget let me tell you.

I continued this trend through one wife and one long-time girlfriend. When I met Yvonne, I was working from 3 p.m. until 7 a.m. six days a week and eight hours on Fridays. You can say she is the reason I don’t work those hours or travel anymore for work. We are a team, and you don’t leave your partner.

Which is when I discovered volunteerism on the personal level. I got involved in doing some voluntary work because she was doing it. She was gone in the evenings at times and well, I missed her, so I went along to be with her. Of course, I met many people in this manner who gave of their time. Willingly and happily.

Now about this time I was hired to help get the battleship U.S.S. Iowa into better shape for its visitors. This is where I discovered volunteerism in the professional capacity. I was one of a handful of permanent employees on this non-profit museum.

Now let me say this as bluntly as possible. I don’t believe that museums or any other organizations that rely on volunteers could ever make it without them. Let me repeat that. No organization which relies on volunteers can ever make it without them. Period.

I worked on the Iowa for three years. In that time, I did not possess the awe over the ship that most of the permanent employees or the volunteers did. It was just another ship to me. I have worked on so many ships and submarines I don’t list them by name but by classification. So, the Iowa became just another World War Two ship I worked on. I worked on many WW2 ships and subs in my time.

There I was on my first day ready to get to it when I was introduced to the crew I would be working with. Of them there were only five who were permanent. And as we each completed what was needed of us to get the ship into the mode it was needed to be in, we were laid off. It didn’t hurt my feelings when I was laid off. I was ready for it. What did hurt my feelings was I would no longer be working with the extraordinary volunteers I had grown to appreciate and respect.

These men and women would put in a solid eight hours of work, and I mean real back breaking work, for free. They did it because they loved doing it. They loved giving of their time for a cause they believed in. For bringing a ship back to life.

Never had I dealt with people who sometimes came for twenty or thirty hours a week to help out in whatever capacity we needed them in. These men and women came from all walks of life and all age groups. I have no words to tell you about how much I admire them. How much I respect them. If I had the words, I would write them here and now. I don’t. It is one of the few actions people can do which leave me speechless.

There are many reasons people volunteer. Some I understand, others I don’t. One of the hardest volunteer positions a person can get is taking care of the babies in the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) at a hospital. There is a waiting list to join this elite group of volunteers which can be a year or two long.

Did you know hospitals are full of volunteers? Another organization which doesn’t work without them. I often believe it is because you can get a person to do something as a volunteer you can’t pay them to do.

I mean it, people will do things you couldn’t possibly get them to do for a salary. Think about it. People must dress up in the necessary gowns and protective gear to take care of premature or sick babies. Some of these babies they can’t even touch, but they sing to them or keep them company to help them grow and heal. An extraordinary thing. Especially since these volunteers are needed at the worst times. They come when they are needed, sometimes called in at 4 a.m., regardless of the fact they have already worked a full day and have another to go to afterwards.

I can go on and on about volunteerism. My admiration for those who participate goes beyond measurement. And even now I will occasionally join my wife to help out.

Does this mean I am a volunteer? Hardly. I go to be with my wife. It doesn’t diminish the way I feel about those who give of their own time so freely. People who often don’t really have the time to give. Yet they find a way.

If you meet a volunteer, shake their hand, and thank them. They’ve earned it.

I’m Ross, the Editor-in-Chief at The Pyrateheart Press and I’m out.  

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