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Copyright © 2007, 2008, 2009 Edith Morris


Catchword Corner

June 2008


I've noticed a few things changing in the neighbourhood as I zip around in my power wheelchair in the afternoons. It's colder. It's dark quicker. The leaves are turning colours and falling. After such a glorious summer it is a bit of a shock to have to pull on a warm jacket before I set off. There are not so many people walking, or children playing in the playground near the mini-golf course. But oh, it's lovely to get out of the house for an hour, isn't it?

One coolish afternoon, a Salvation Army man was standing outside Woolworths collecting money. I talked to him for a while, noticing that many people gave without hesitation. The funds he collected would be used to feed a family, or to give counsel to a broken-hearted person. I presume he was one of many volunteers.

We often complain that no one wants to volunteer any more for service organisations or in the community. Did you know that there are 420,000-plus people who care for their disabled or elderly family members. That's without payment, almost no recognition or value given. A mother doesn't volunteer to care for her disabled child, or a husband to care for his demented wife. This type of care goes far beyond volunteering. It is love. It is duty. It motivates one of our country's biggest health workforces.

One sunny afternoon two friends came with a wheelbarrow, gardening tools and plants to spend an hour tidying up my overgrown garden. They made no fuss, no headlines and came unasked. Somehow in their busy schedules they found time for an act of kindness.

Dianne fell out of her wheelchair and lay by the side of the road while cars streamed by at 8 o'clock in the morning. No one stopped. As she shared her story on my radio show, she said how worthless she felt and how soul-destroying the whole experience had been. But she is a bubbly, cheerful, positive person and we laughed the whole way through the programme.

Hospice volunteers had their fundraising money grabbed, but shoppers gave chase and caught the robbers. What motivates some for good and others for evil? I don't know. All I really know is that society would collapse if all the volunteers withdrew their helping hands and refused to do anything unless they were paid.

In June we celebrate Volunteer Awareness Week from 15 to 21. As you move around the community, see if you can spot them. It's a challenge because volunteers are usually quiet, unassuming, and totally wonderful.