Posted by: Michelle UluOla | February 13, 2012

A Gratitude Valentine for Volunteers

“Volunteer: 1. A person who performs or offers to perform a service of his or her own free will; 2. A person who renders aid, performs a service or assumes an obligation voluntarily.” — The American Heritage Dictionary

Beyond that bare-bones definition, many wise people have shared their thoughts on the subject. Here are my favorites:

“Volunteers aren’t paid, not because they are worthless, but because they are priceless.” Anonymous

“Volunteers are the only human beings on the face of the earth who reflect this nation’s compassion, unselfish caring, patience, and just plain love for one another.” Erma Bombeck

“Everybody can be great because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love.” Martin Luther King Jr.

“Service to others is the payment you make for your space here on earth.” Mohammed Ali

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
Margaret Mead

“One is not born into the world to do everything but to do something.”
Henry David Thoreau, poet, writer, philosopher 

“I don’t know what your destiny will be, but one thing I know: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found how to serve.” Albert Schweitzer

“It is one of the most beautiful compensations of this life that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

“No one is useless in this world who lightens the burden of it for someone else.” Benjamin Franklin

“Living is the art of loving. Loving is the art of caring. Caring is the art of sharing. Sharing is the art of living. If you want to lift yourself up, lift up someone else.”
Booker T. Washington

“The miracle is this–the more we share, the more we have.”
Leonard Nimoy

“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.” Aesop

As I pondered the above quotes, I concluded that the word volunteer can encompass much more than we give it credit for. Most everyone I know is a volunteer, even those who don’t consider themselves to be. According to that basic, dictionary definition, rendering aid or performing a service does not need to be done within the framework of any organization in order to count as volunteering. Every random act of kindness, smile, compliment and word of support that eases another’s burden and elevates their spirit is an act of volunteerism. There are as many forms of service as there are people on the planet—examples are everywhere.

As I was growing up, my parents were always volunteering at church, school and community events, and while Mom is widowed and can no longer get out to those, she continues to work at home, donating her time, energy, and love, embroidering baptismal garments with her ladies’ church circle. They help launch babies’ lives with a unique and special gift. Also, Mom never ceases praying for everyone, which is one of the highest forms of volunteering.

A nurse friend of mine, who’s also a Master Gardener, has a passion for volunteering, donating her time and service at a free clinic, a state park, community gardens and for anything else where a helping heart and hand is needed.

Walter Winchell once defined a friend as, “One who walks in when the rest of the world walks out.” Observing the scroll of status updates on my Facebook wall, I see people mention a health challenge, depression, death in their family, weather disaster, or other problem, and within moments of posting, multiple friends from across the globe will dispatch words of support, comfort, prayers and love, and if close by, offers of physical assistance. I’m guessing that those folks aren’t thinking of themselves as volunteers, but those spontaneous outpourings definitely qualify as rendering service to those in need. And, the continual, voluntary sharing of personal artwork, photographs, music and wisdom-teachings buoys everyone’s spirits with their beauty, providing a sublime tune-up beyond measure.

For the first time in human history, volunteers can link up instantly via the Internet to address a crisis anywhere, be it due to a natural disaster or political upheaval. Obviously, services provided as a result of Internet connections have made a lot of people rich, and that’s good. But, I believe that the unprecedented communication between people and their free sharing of information and creativity has changed the world in positive ways that are incalculable treasures.

While many corporate websites offer free and helpful content to enhance their brands, their customers voluntarily gather in their forums offering generous  advice for each other about company products and how to effectively use them.  Who among us has not used and appreciated Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia based on contributions and editing by volunteers? WordPress not only gives me my own free niche to write this blog, but also volunteers a phenomenal amount of free support.  And, there are citizens across the world who use their own funds to host and create sites to freely share information of high value to their fellow crew-members on spaceship Earth, some of it is even life-saving.

Volunteers are everywhere: in large cities, small towns, jungles, deserts, on mountaintops, and even on bodies of water. Those already being of service in the military are seen going the extra mile during their precious free time, helping civilians, especially children, setting an incredible example as ambassadors of peace and good will.

Metropolitan areas certainly have their share of people who give their money, time and energy to help others, but in farm country, volunteers are often the backbone that supports the very fabric of life. Having lived in a rural community for going on 22 years, I’ve seen them at work. Like many villages, our fire department is staffed by a group of very dedicated men and women volunteers. Our county is populated by more cows than people, so with our limited resources, we really have to depend on each other. Hospital and hospice volunteers, veterans, senior drivers, neighbors and Good Samaritans nurture us when we need it most, and the police, sheriff, firefighters, First Responders and EMTs are there when those times become critical. These people not only give of their time, they put their own lives on the line when they do it. There can be no nobler calling, and they deserve a special salute and thank you.

So, for all the folks who extend their helping hands to all of us, here is a valentine especially for you:

A Gratitude Valentine for Volunteers

When everyday challenges had me down,
Your beaming smile erased my frown.
When I was hurting, you were there,
With a warm hug and a quiet prayer.
When I had surgery and it took its toll,
You were there with a casserole.
When I couldn’t drive to the doc or store,
You were there knocking on my door.
When I lost my cherished loved one,
You were there with a shoulder to cry on.
When my car slid off the road in the snow,
You were there with a rope and a tow.
When I was disabled by an accident,
You saved me from my predicament.
When my home was touched by a fire’s blaze,
You were there coming through the haze.
When life’s storms threatened to disrupt,
You were there to buoy me up.

Thank you my friend, neighbor, volunteer,
You rescued me from despair and fear.
Your love and caring is most dear,
And my world’s a better place…because you’re here!


Volunteers are changing our world for the better, one thought, word, dream and deed of kindness at a time. I would like to volunteer this wish:

May everyone enjoy a
Happy Valentine’s Day
fueled by Unconditional Love.

******©UluOla 2012******



  1. Very well done. Great quotes, powerful ponderings and a wonderful poem!!


    • Thank you, Janine, for your wonderful compliments!


  2. Great post. According to both definitions, you are highly qualified to receive these honors too, although I don’t think you had yourself in mind when you wrote this item. Many have benefited from your rendering of aid and/or service, given freely and without expectation. So, thanks to you, as well! 🙂


    • Aw…gee……thanks for the much appreciated, kind words, Paul. I do what I can.


  3. Michelle, What a wonderful Valentines gift you share **** Your heartlight is on high beam ***** Love and a big ((((((Bear Hug))))) to you,Suli


    • Thank you, dear Suli, for your sweet words, love and special hugs–you know that they’re returned, multiplied! {{{{{{HUGS}}}}}} 😉


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