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Joseph: The rent you pay
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I had the pleasure of attending the United Way’s volunteer recognition dinner this week.

I was humbled to be in the presence of many from Kershaw County who have selflessly devoted not just hours, but years of their time to volunteer and give back to our community. The time they’re called to serve is not always convenient or perfect as giving back follows no schedule. They show up anyway. The time they’re called to serve is not always suitable for their families. They set good examples and show up anyway. The time they’re called to serve doesn’t always fit their job. They do both and show up anyway. The jobs volunteers perform often include mundane and repetitive work. They show up anyway. These volunteers have given and continue to give of their time whether it’s spare or not. It is the many hours of time given by those choosing to help others, and usually performed after a long day at the office or on the job or in the home. And these hours of giving back aren’t choosy; available time on the weekends is welcomed with open arms.

Throughout the program, I frequently heard the words “service” and “selfless.” The “service” I speak of can be defined as “the action of helping or doing work for someone” or “an act of assistance.” Synonyms for “service” include favor, kindness, helping hand, assistance, aid. The word “selfless” describes those who are “concerned more with the needs and wishes of others than with one's own.” Selfless people are portrayed as considerate, compassionate, kind, noble, generous, charitable, benevolent, open-handed -- all innate qualities of a volunteer devoted to selfless service.

Volunteers represent no specific age or color or status. Volunteers are individuals; volunteers are groups. Volunteers have a sense of community; volunteers want to affect the world. Volunteers epitomize humanitarian values of serving others; volunteers have the desire to learn new things and acquire more knowledge. Volunteers test their capabilities and stretch their limits. Volunteers are young and old, middle-aged and adolescent.

Service to others can’t be measured, though, no matter what the scenario or who is involved, all parties benefit. Giving back, volunteering improves our health and happiness and has been proven to add years to our lives, and people who volunteer their time tend to have higher self-esteem and feelings of social connectedness.

Selfless service can be shown by anyone and everyone and is the rent you pay for your space here on earth. Volunteers feed the homeless, clothe the poor, build houses. Volunteers serve their country by protecting the homeland. Volunteers teach, tutor, and mentor. Volunteers clean, sweep, rake, and dig. Communities with lots of volunteers are more stable and better places to live. The selfless efforts of volunteers have the capacity to change a community. Volunteers stand united. Anyone can join. Membership is free, rewarding, and comes with no restrictions. “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘what are you doing for others?” (Martin Luther King)