Wednesday, April 13, 2016

A Major Milestone

I had planned to write a post about National Volunteer Week on Monday, but ironically, I was busy volunteering that day. Really! I spent the day out at UBC having my 6th blood draw for the CIRCLES study for NMO and having a brain MRI for a study on NMO and cognition. I do these things because they are important and relatively easy ways that I can help researchers and clinicians learn more about NMO and hopefully find a cure for this devastating disease.

I wanted to post about National Volunteer Week because this year marks an important milestone in my life:

I have officially been volunteering for 40 years! 

Yes, you read that right. When I was just 5 years old, I began volunteering by visit a fragile senior in my neighbourhood. She was living with angina which had made her both house bound and bedridden. She and her husband were lovely people. I visited her a couple times a week for 10 years until I moved to the west coast. We bonded over our love of art, (she was a gifted artist) writing, reading and poetry. She introduced me to The Group of Seven and thanks to her, I fell in love with the work of Emily Carr. I learned at a very young age that I was happiest and my best self when I was helping others and so my life evolved into one of continual service. When you find what makes you happiest, you want to keep on doing it.

My volunteer resume is extensive and diverse. I have given of my time to all kinds of causes and events that I felt passionate about. Through all my varied experiences, I have developed skills I wouldn't otherwise have and learned a lot about myself and what I am capable of, often surprising myself. For example, who knew I could effectively manage a fleet of 30 vehicles and drivers for VIP transportation for major sporting events? I didn't! I walked in the door, sat down and BOOM! I was in charge. I just did it and because I am really good at multitasking and organising, things ran smoothly. I walked away from that experience pretty proud of myself and then went on to run dispatch for three more events. I loved the challenge.

Over the years, volunteering has given me the opportunity to interact with a huge cross section of society. I've worked with children, seniors, people with physical and developmental disabilities, people in crisis, future health care providers, various boards and advisory committees, city council, politicians, tourists, Olympic and Paralympic athletes, professional sports figures, festival and events committees, medical researchers and clinicians, radio and television hosts and so on. I have learned something from every single person I have crossed paths with in the last 40 years. I've made some of my closest friends through volunteering. My best friend Lisa and I met through the crisis line. When we first met, we took an instant dislike to one another, which, in her words meant "We were destined to become friends." We were both elected as Volunteer Representatives and as we worked together, we got to know and respect one another. We've been best friends ever since.

I have always believed that volunteering is the rent we pay as citizens of this planet. The beautiful thing about giving is that the more you give, the more you get to keep for yourself-my life has been blessed and informed in countless ways through service. Rick Hansen gave some great advice about volunteering. I am paraphrasing, but essentially he said we should find the thing we are passionate about and then do it with all our might. I couldn't agree more! Choose opportunities to do the things you love, because then you will be giving from a place of happiness and joy. I promise you, it will change your life. 

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