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“What is the essence of life? To serve others and to do good.” Aristotle

“We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give.” Winston Churchill

First established in 1974, National Volunteer Week 2021 is April 18-24th. Through millennia every major philosophy has acknowledged the essential role played by volunteers, people who give of their time and talents without expectation of compensation or recognition. Here are a few insights from thought leaders through the ages.

  • Job - “I was eyes to the blind, and feet I was to the lame. I was father to the poor and the cause which I knew not I sought out.”

  • Hinduism – “He does not live in vain who employs his wealth, his thought, his speech to advance the good of others.”

  • Taoism - “The way to heaven is to benefit others.”

  • Mohammed - “A mans true wealth is hereafter the good he does in this world to his fellow man.”

  • Jesus Christ - After telling the Good Samaritan story said, “Go and do likewise.”

  • Adam Smith - The father of modern capitalism said, “To feel much for others and little for ourselves; to restrain our selfish, and exercise our benevolent affections, constitutes the perfection of human nature.”

The writings of Job (from the Old Testament) are perhaps the oldest of the above insights. I love this idea of seeking out what I don’t know. The odds of someone finding you out to ask for help are slim. The odds of you finding unmet needs as you seek them out is virtually 100%. To seek you must be willing to find, and act. That can be a bit scary as the unmet needs of humanity, even our own tiny slice of it, can feel nearly limitless.

In my writing I often talk about achievement oriented versus process-oriented goals. Achievement goals are all about getting something done, the final product. This is like giving money in service of others. Giving of money is good and certainly has its place. Process goals are more about the process itself, the joy of it, and are more oriented around becoming something. Giving of time and talent is always more powerful when it comes to feeding the soul, but there is a need and a place for both kinds of giving.

Some of the fondest memories our family have are from when we volunteered to support an event, to clean up trash along the river, or to provide simple service to individuals. The memory of these experiences will be with us through the generations and are an important part of the legacy we leave our children.

You might at this point be thinking that you would love to find opportunities to expand your circle of service and enjoy selfless service of others. You might wonder how to do that? You might also be part of a service organization that is looking for volunteers. Here are some suggestions that will help you connect with service opportunities or find those wishing to be of service.

As you look over these sites a few pointers will help you take best advantage of and keep you within reasonable boundaries in a world of great need:

  • What are your values – what is important to you?

  • Realistically how much time to do you have?

  • Should you seek one time or ongoing service opportunities?

  • If you are in a relationship or a family what might your loved ones enjoy? Talk about it.

  • What skills do you have that might be most valuable to others? Or, perhaps, you don’t want to be doing the same things and want to try something new.

The news last night was full of anxiety, protests, out of control housing costs, and sports (which if you are a Mariners fan can feel hopeless at times also). As you honor and celebrate volunteers during Volunteer Week, and seek to be of service yourself, I promise it will bring you hope. Hope that comes from knowing you and those around you will spend nearly 7 billion hours in service of their neighbor this year. Other than this week it won’t be likely to make headlines, but that service is provided every day without fanfare or recognition. If you aren’t already, I hope you will be inspired to become part of this great volunteer corps and enjoy the joy, memories, and camaraderie of selfless service in your life.


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