In past years, I suppose volunteering was thought of as an act of ďgiving backĒ to the community; for example, we give our time to our houses of worship to help with a fundraiser or bazaar.

At the worst of times, volunteering could mean joining the military service. My late father was an air-raid warden during the second World War in Liverpool, England. His job was to make sure that no lights could be seen coming from windows or open doors during a night time air raid. It was a volunteer position that was potentially very dangerous, but he did it for the community. The result was gratification and a sense of accomplishment. We donít necessarily look for kudos, but itís nice when they are offered. Neighbours offered him their thanks and appreciation when they would see him. That was then.

Do we have the same level of commitment to voluntary efforts today? Iím not so sure. I look around and see signs of ambivalence. I would like to think that people care for their friends and neighbours, but I see that something is missing. You know, back in the day, men used to hold the door open for ladies and give up their seat on a bus. Itís a voluntary act of kindness, respect, and consideration. I believe those days are gone. Is it because women have caught up to men as their equals? Or, is it because the society in which we live is changing so quickly that old voluntary acts of consideration are outdated.

Volunteering is probably more important today than ever before.

Go into any hospital and youíll see volunteers everywhere. You can ask them for directions to get to the department you are looking for. They are there to help the staff by providing different services. Go into the Hospitalís boutique or even the cafeteria....the volunteers are there to assist where they can.

Many organizations only exist because of volunteers. My personal favourite is The Cummings Centre for Seniors in Montreal. This organization provides many services and is only able to so because of volunteers. The staff is made up of approximately 80 people, while the volunteers are close to 1,000. Without the participation of volunteers the Centre would not be able to offer the services they do. The result is a wonderful blend of a dedicated staff and equally devoted and dedicated volunteers, who receive positive feedback , kudos, and thanks all day long.

How about when itís time to vote? When we see the voting percentages after elections, it is hard to fathom why the numbers keep dropping. We complain about government, yet we are so complacent about the exercise of voting. This is a voluntary effort that we are called upon every couple of years or so to participate in, and yet our track record is increasingly deficient.

It hurts me to see the lack of (voluntary) courtesy on a daily basis. Do we really take time to enjoy life? Everyone seems to be in a rush to go somewhere without taking time to think about others and the resulting impact or consequences our actions might have on others.

I guess Iím a throw-back to the ďgood old daysĒ. The reality is that without volunteers many programs to raise funds could not happen. Donations would not be made and collected for so many research projects that governments donít supportÖthe Man in Motion (Terry Fox), the Ride for Cancer, the Walk for Cancer, and so many other projects. How about the numbers of people who volunteered at the Canadian Winter Olympics or those who gave their time at the Summer Olympics in London? Without volunteers for football, soccer, and hockey where would our kids be? The number of people who volunteer their time and give of themselves by getting involved is helping society and its people. And itís so important.

The definition of Volunteering is Ė ďto promote good and improve human quality of life/serving the society we live inĒ. The definition of Voluntary is- ď free choice and without expecting compensationĒ.

Think about it. Whether it be voluntary or volunteering, think about what you can do.