Making a Difference


“What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived.   It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.”      (Nelson Mandela)


The world today, despite its affluence in many sectors, is becoming increasingly more difficult for many people to live in.

What was once considered to be luxuries are now becoming necessities in today’s materialistic society.   More and more people are finding it harder to provide for their families.

The idea that helping others is an important part of living a meaningful life has been around for centuries.   ‘What is the essence of life?   To serve others and to do good,’ so said Greek philosopher, Aristotle, over 2300 years ago.

This ancient quote about volunteering offers us proof that giving back to the community is hardly a new concept.  Numerous philosophers throughout history have expressed similar views – that empathetic relationships with others are a central feature of a positive, well-lived life.

So, three cheers for volunteers!   In this day and age, volunteerism is very much alive and well!   We become aware of it every time there is a need for people to unite not only in the face of an adversity or a crisis but it is also apparent in daily life.

And with the increasing use of social media, volunteerism has elevated into a global initiative shared and supported by countless, caring people throughout the world who not only think about themselves but also of other people who have so very little in life or who are living on the outskirts of society.    And this is why volunteers make such a big difference to those in any need.

What is a volunteer?   What is the value of volunteering?   Volunteering is all about giving, contributing, or sometimes just being there for someone.   It is working with others to make a meaningful contribution to a better community.

People volunteer their time and energy for a variety of reasons.   Many want to gain experience, acquire new skills, meet new people.   Others just want to give back to their community, to help someone or to promote a worthwhile cause.

Volunteerism puts human relationships first and encourages personal interaction with those in need.   It is also a powerful tool for increasing the seeds of empathy within each of us.

Empathy is the skill that helps us relate to others, work together, and form the healthy bonds which are the cornerstone of a healthy society.   It involves seeing the world from the other’s perspective and understanding their emotional experiences.

When we feel the pain, fear or anxiety of those who are most vulnerable – the homeless sleeping in the cold, a wide-eyed child overwhelmed by the world, no food on the table, and so much more, it is that feeling of empathy that motivates us to reach out to them.   It also brings out the best in humanity.   It helps to make our society a fairer, kinder, more compassionate place, and volunteering plays a significant role in making this possible.

Every day in Australia alone, tens of thousands of people of all ages and from all walks of life give their time and money to make life more comfortable for people less fortunate than themselves.

And every day, many organizations and groups – from sports clubs and churches to welfare groups and international aid organizations rely on volunteers to help them make a difference in their local community or further afield.

To be a volunteer is enriching and diverse.  Volunteering, however, is not just about organizing hundreds of volunteers for large events.   It is also about the hundreds of volunteers involved in minor events – league sports, shelters for the homeless, soup kitchens, visiting the sick, etc.

These large and small acts, given freely, are what bind communities together.   Volunteering is helping, not hiring; giving, not taking; contributing, not counting the cost

Volunteers are the life force of our communities.  They are the bonding glue between the cracks of a society increasingly defined by separation between the needy and the blessed.

The totality of the work they do every day goes unseen and under appreciated by most of us – until maybe one of these ‘angels’ has occasion to step directly into our own lives, at some critical moment.

We cannot and should not put a price on volunteering.  The value of volunteering is much deeper, much more fulfilling and much more important in making a contribution to a healthy and vibrant community than money can ever measure.

How can we put a monetary value on ordinary people doing extraordinary things?   The reason volunteers don’t get paid is not because they’re worthless but because they’re priceless!

Peggy Spencer is an active member of her parish church, St. John the Baptist, in Fern Tree Gully near Melbourne, Australia. Though not a "professional" writer, Peggy has always loved writing.

  • Paul Baker
    Posted at 06:55h, 29 November Reply

    Peggy, a most interesting and insightful read. It is an affirmation of the great work volunteers do and an invitation for volunteers to be proud for what they are doing or have done. Thanks so very much for your sharing.

  • Joan levy Earle
    Posted at 13:01h, 29 November Reply

    Awesome article, Peggy. Truth filled and inspiring. Thanks for writing this.

  • Peter Bisson
    Posted at 13:50h, 29 November Reply

    Thank you Peggy!

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