Balancing my family life, my work life and my community life is a worthwhile challenge. Volunteers are the glue that hold the community together. Whether you cook a dinner for a sick neighbour and her family or lead a fundraising campaign to build a synagogue, without you, our lives – and our community = would be much poorer for everyone.
Being a volunteer is my responsibility. The Jewish people are called upon as a group to be responsible for one another. Sometimes, I have only a little bit to offer, other times, I have more.
When my kids were small, I was a volunteer driver for the Cancer Society, picking up and dropping off patients who required daily treatment in hospitals. My daughter Rachel, a toddler at the time, was my assistant in her car seat. Her presence seemed to cause the patients to be more relaxed. Later, when I was back at work fulltime, I found I had less time to volunteer, so I became involved in simple, hands-on work at Shul that required me to show up, stuff envelopes or be an usher and go home. When the kids grew up and left home, I took on more complex volunteer tasks, like taking leadership positions in the Jewish community, organizing conferences, sitting on boards, and involving myself in political activities.
Through all those years, I participated in peace building work so that we could better understand others and others could better understand us. The focus of this work has developed into opportunities for peace building between Israel and its neighbours. I am concerned about my local community, too; I want all of us to feel safe and valued here.
I am proud of the volunteer work that my adult children undertake these days, which suits them well and can be done in their spare time. One daughter knits mitts in the summer to hand out to homeless people on the street in the winter. Another daughter plays klezmer music with a band at celebrations for free and suggests to the host that donations to feed the hungry can replace paying the band. My son helps older people become familiar and comfortable with computers.
I challenge people who describe themselves as “just a volunteer.” Without volunteers – like you and me – who notice what work needs to be done in the community, there would be no “us”, only individuals striving with each other to meet their own needs.