I don’t know if you know that wonderful song that was so popular during the 1940’s. It became one of the poignant reminders that husbands, sons, brothers, fathers and friends were oceans away. I thought about that song yesterday and felt nostalgic as I worked with a couple who are new volunteers. They took the volunteer orientation a few weeks back and this was their second Sunday working. As we spent the day together, they told me of their families, their sorrows, their joys and adventures. Both had been married twice before. Both had buried two spouses and their world consisted of myriads of family members that intertwined like a vine that doesn’t know it’s out of control.
They are of the WWII generation and they worked hard yesterday, happily, intent on doing a good job. They were organized, industrious and matter of fact, the qualities that served them well throughout long, eventful lives. Raising children, grandchildren with and without a spouse will do that to you, especially when a great depression and war is thrown into the mix.
They approached volunteering with the same joy they reserved for family and golf. As a matter of fact, they were going to try to sneak in a few holes after they were finished. They seemed complete, content that life is complex and will often throw you curve balls. But what stood out to me was their sense of service. Service for service sake was all they craved. And that made me nostalgic.
The volunteers from that generation always seemed to hold service in the highest regard. They gave of their time because it was the right thing to do and no task was beneath them. This is the generation that rolled up their sleeves and got dirty. Today we are carefully crafting messages that will attract volunteers. We are using new verbiage that will hopefully coax baby boomers and beyond to give of their time. We use leader, mentor, coach, head of, specialist and other terms to make volunteering more exciting. We rework jobs so that they are more meaningful. We create panels or boards of volunteers so that they can manage themselves.
There is nothing wrong with changing to meet new challenges and change we must. But sometimes, I grow nostalgic for the days when we simply asked for help and the call was answered.