International Volunteer Day – Give Thanks

Today, December 5, is International Volunteer Day, created by the United Nations in 1985 to give thanks to those who volunteer in one way or another “for their efforts and increase public awareness on their contribution to society.” Thank you all, for without your efforts hundreds of thousands of people, many of them children, would perish — and that is not an exaggeration.

And what better time of year, when thoughts turn to celebrating holidays and exchanging gifts with our families from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day to be thankful for what we have and to help others less fortunate.

A week ago, I joined others volunteering at the Ronald McDonald House in New York – the first and biggest of the havens allowing families to stay together to support their child or sibling s/he undergoes treatment for cancer and other diseases to unpack holiday decorations stored away last year and start to bring some holiday cheer to the house. I tell you it was an extremely fulfilling experience as we brought a little bit of cheer to the 85 families who call RMH home.

Ronald McDonald House
There were three times I almost lost composure, touched by what the staff and guests deal with every day.

At one point as I was assembling Christmas trees in the main lobby a somber looking man in his forties walked to the front desk. The director of operations recognized him and said, “Good morning Mr. <redacted>, how is your son doing?” He shook his head saying “any day now…” and walked away. The sadness in all of our eyes was heartbreaking.

At lunch, the promotions staff told us all about what the families do at the house and showed a trailer for movie the kids created on their own about a land where wishes came true. The star of the film died the night it debuted shortly after getting a bedside preview.

Try dealing with this every dayAnd finally, as I was washing up before leaving, I saw the sign at the right in the rest room. Imagine having to even think about how to deal with radioactive baby diapers. Can you do so and not thank the deity of your choice for your good fortune? You can do more than that.

You can give back. There are many charities besides Ronald McDonald House that need you support. Good Shepherd Services addresses needs of at-risk teenagers — often the last intervention they can get before striking out on their own. St. Jude’s Hospital is another child healthcare provider. Or, just make a donation to UNICEF. Just find s charity important to you.

You can give back. Give money; give time and don’t forget to give thanks.

About Ron Casalotti
I am part of that lucky generation that started out when watching TV meant choosing from three networks, three independents and PBS. Now, I work in new media for businesses and organizations - but these thoughts are my own.

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