I am so fortunate to have gotten to participate in Volunteer Odyssey so quickly after moving to Memphis. It was such a great introduction to all the good work being done in this community and to the many people who make it all happen. At each volunteer site the theme was resoundingly similar: restoring people’s dignity. In some cases it was the homeless or hungry being provided a hand up, in others the elderly or disabled practicing developmental skills and lastly, the economically disadvantaged gaining valuable job skills. We all feel better when we feel we have something to do and something to contribute.
Volunteer Odyssey did in fact prove witness of the many people in Memphis who use their free time to contribute to the betterment of our community. Each day I saw volunteers who regularly dedicated their time to serve others. Hospitality Hub’s engine is run by volunteers who routinely show up at 9:00AM several times a week to meet with the homeless and connect them with appropriate services for their situation. Advance Memphis provides lunch to all of their adult students every day there is class through people who are willing to cook or buy a meal enough to serve 30 people. Catholic Charities’ volunteers travel to Jackson, TN on a regular basis to provide food to an immigrant population.
These amazing volunteers were a huge part of my experience during my odyssey. It is proof of the age old adage that “the world is an evil place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing.” (I think that particular version of that saying was given to us by Albert Einstein.) If each good person made a regular commitment to make the world a better place, evil would dwindle in the light of good. In the process, volunteering not only enhances a community, it also informs and shapes one’s outlook on life. It particularly helps me see that people who are in situations that I am unfamiliar with and seem so different from me are actually a lot more like me than I realize: a human wanting something to do and something to contribute.