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DOWNEY – It was the right topic for the right audience at the right time.
Educator, world traveler, motivational speaker, and author Gail Small offered observations and insights on joyful volunteering Saturday to appreciative members of the all-volunteer Friends of the Downey City Library and some of its literacy and training volunteers, even as she pointed to her latest book, “Joyful Volunteering,” for further illustrations of the serendipitous nature of volunteering.
“You’re never too old or too young to volunteer,” she said. And: “When you volunteer, one thing leads to another,” citing for example the seemingly unconnected, roundabout way she initially met the man who, with time’s passage and the conspiracy of events and circumstances eventually became her husband. She said the narrative of volunteering is replete with such happy coincidences.
“Volunteering pays big dividends” was another of her messages, in terms of building a resume, enriched work experience, networking opportunities, and invariably getting so much more than one gives.
“It’s amazing what you can accomplish as a volunteer with a good attitude,” she said. “Volunteering my services while giving ‘enrichment’ lectures have enabled me to travel the world, and indeed visit the seven continents and even explore Antarctica.”
She was giving a lecture one time aboard a cruise ship in South America when an opportunity to fly to Antarctica opened up. She said she didn’t hesitate one bit. Soon, she found herself with seven layers of borrowed clothes “to keep me warm as I waddled among thousands of chattering penguins. It was truly a life experience!”
Small, who has a BA in sociology and a master’s in education, also talked about her penchant during her speaking tours for two favorite subjects, “self-esteem” and “creative writing.” She is a holder of a California Life Credential as well as a certification with the William Glasser Institute in choice theory, reality therapy, and lead-management. Her co-author of ‘Joyful Volunteering’ is close friend Ninon de Vere De Rosa, founder and executive director of KidsTalk Foundation and KidsTalk Productions.
‘Joyful Volunteering’ contains quotes, stories by different people, and uplifting comments. Here’s a quote from Winston Churchill: “We make a living by what we do, but we make a life by what we give.” From Edmund Burke: “Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could only do a little.” From Mother Teresa: “I slept and I dreamed that life is all joy, I work and I saw that life is all service. I served and I saw that service is joy.” And, from an unknown author: “Volunteers aren’t paid, not because they are worthless, but because they are priceless.”
Volunteering can be equated to giving of one’s time, and therefore of oneself, the author said, and no gift can be too small. There’s a fundraiser story in the book contributed by a Simi Valley volunteer about a little girl, age 12, who had “spent much of her life seriously ill with an unusual fatal heart problem. She was introduced at the event as a ‘poster child’ for the cause. During the ceremony, I presented her with her first jump rope. Her doctor had just cleared her to start playing with a jump rope and I wanted to be the first one to give a rope to her. She immediately started jumping rope – right in front of the audience. The smile on her face was priceless and there were tears on more than one face in the crowd.”
In talking about ‘relationships’, Small quoted Ann Larris’ little essay about what “The old wise man said about Lollipops,” titled “People are like Lollipops.” This is the essay in its entirety: “Lollipops come in all different sizes and people come in all different sizes…tall, medium, short…; Lollipops come in all different shapes and people come in all different shapes too…; Lollipops come in many colors and people come in many different colors, too…; Lollipops come from different places and people come from different places, too…; Lollipops come in different wrappers – plain and fancy -….and people come in different wrappers – clothes-, too. So in spite of all the different sizes, shapes, colors, places, wrappers….all Lollipops are just Lollipops. And all people are just people.”
Small then used square demo boards to suggest how possible, and how desirable, it is to turn negatives into positives, simply by turning the boards over one by one, on one side of which are written ‘seven deadly habits’, and on the other the countervailing ‘seven caring habits’, courtesy of Dr. William Glasser:
Instead of criticizing, how about supporting [someone]?
Instead of blaming, how about encouraging…?
Instead of complaining, how about ‘listening’…?
Instead of nagging, how about accepting…?
Instead of threatening, how about trusting…?
Instead of punishing, how about respecting…?
Instead of rewarding to control, how about negotiating differences?
At talk’s conclusion, library literacy and training coordinator Claudia Dailey thanked the volunteers “for your time and for all the things you do for the library,” and especially the Friends for picking up the tab for ‘this feast of pastries and sandwiches’-a harbinger of Christmas. “Enjoy the holidays,” she said, “and keep volunteering.”
Published: December 6, 2012 – Volume 11 – Issue 34