One activity which is enjoyed by a growing number of retirees is that of volunteering. Volunteering may be defined in different ways--offering to help others--working without payment. A broad definition of this service is described by Jacqueline Washington, recipient of the Sojourner Truth Award for outstanding businesswoman of the year in 1982 by the National Association of Negro Business and Professional Women: "Volunteering is the rent I pay for the space I occupy on this earth."
The following true story illustrates some of the components of the volunteering experience.
A male volunteer elected to spend his time talking to patients and family members in the radiation-oncology center of a local hospital. There was no particular orientation for this type of service. The volunteer believed the mere presence in a hospital setting was felt as a threatening environment by the support team, the family, and certainly by the patient. He considered his job was to reduce some of the tension and anxiety in whatever manner this could be achieved.
He talked to patients on a variety of subjects, his dog, gardening, farming, sports, cooking and whatever special interest he could glean from their conversations. When everything else failed, they would talk about the weather . . . how hot or cold it was . . . when were we going to get some rain. Such subjects as how many radiation or chemotherapy treatments the patient had to take, or his or her struggle to survive, both physically and emotionally, were not mentioned.