Opinion

The joy of volunteering

Parker and his Dad found joy in volunteering to clean up town. - Submitted photo
Parker and his Dad found joy in volunteering to clean up town.
— image credit: Submitted photo

A while ago now, I participated in the amazing Aldergrove Clean-up Day. I was on a team with Parker, Jeremy, Davis, age 4. Parker, his Dad Sean, St. Dunstan’s pastor, Paul Guiton, and I took on a stretch of 264th Street south of Fraser Highway. Parker’s young eyes were good at spotting even the smallest bits of garbage and he manfully handled a pair of tongs almost as long as himself. Parker will almost certainly grow up to be a volunteer in his community.

Being a volunteer is an education. You can learn the most amazing things. Parker learned a lot that day. He learned that plastic drinking straws are not bio-degradable, that it’s a good idea to wear gum boots if you want to hang out in ditches, to wear a safety vest on the job, to hold Dad’s hand and look both ways when you cross a busy highway, that police officers bring around bottles of water for volunteers, and that it’s O.K. to talk to strangers when you’ve been properly introduced by your Dad. Parker learned, in a real hands-on way, that he is part of a community.

Being a volunteer is rewarding. Most people feel good about what they accomplish as volunteers. That is, at least partly, why we do it. Parker was getting a little tired by the end of his shift, his running shoes were wet and definitely the worse for wear, and those tongs were getting heavy, but his Dad was sure that as soon as he got home he would tell his brothers and his Mum about all he had seen and done that morning. Parker was an important part of our team and I think he felt good about himself and his morning’s work.

We grown-ups also learned and benefited from the experience. Jack Froese was part of our larger team – his group had 264th north of the highway. We heard that Jack was running for mayor before that news hit the papers. You just never know who you will run into and what you will learn when you volunteer. Like Parker, we had also seen enough of our share of garbage, and wet feet (only one of us had the good sense to wear rubber boots and keep her feet dry), and climbing in and out of the muddy ditch picking up some one else’s mess was getting a bit tedious. But as we companionably walked back to our cars chatting with our new friends we all felt pretty good about a job well done. For the next week or so, I would drive down that little stretch of road with a feeling of pride – having made it just a little bit better for every one.

When I attended the Township Volunteer Dinner there was further proof of the value of volunteering to the individual and to the community. It always amazes me when I hear how much the young students nominated for the Pete Swenson Award have already accomplished – academically, athletically and as volunteers. This year, an Aldergrove student, Sunny Bui, was chosen to receive the Pete Swenson Award. Sunny’s list of volunteer activities is impressive and I’d be willing to bet he started volunteering way back in elementary school.

Like almost everything children learn from grown-ups, what we do, seems to stick a lot better than what we say. I see that in my own children. They used to grumble sometimes when I would drag them along to some volunteer event, but just recently my daughter participated with me in the Relay for Life and my youngest son was part of the Acts of Kindness crew who did the house renovation for an Aldergrove family. Parker’s Dad, by modelling volunteering and including his son in the process gives his child, and his community, an invaluable gift.

Editor's note: the next Aldergrove Clean-up Day is set for Sunday, July 17 from 8 a.m. to noon, meet at Aldergrove Mall parking lot, and enjoy free barbecue lunch after.

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