“The roots of all goodness lie in the soil of appreciation for goodness”
With Thanksgiving just behind us, the month of October gives us pause to think about thankfulness and our sense of gratitude. Even under the shadow of COVID-19, it can be a time to reflect on the many ways that people and communities come together to help each other.
What is it about the act of giving that keeps us wanting to keep giving? There is no question that we can receive a lot of positive feedback from others for our good deeds and the expression of gratitude, a simple thank you, from others. A recent Globe and Mail article raised some thought provoking questions about the meaning of gratitude particularly during this time of the pandemic and world upheaval. It suggests that gratitude has the power to reinforce social relationships and inspire kindness. “Spreading gratitude around makes us feel more connected, fosters social networks, and gives meaning to life”.
Three people who currently volunteer at The Corner were asked to share their experiences of volunteering and their thoughts about how it connected to their sense of gratitude. Maya Kollegal, a volunteer with The Corner Food Bank, is the primary caregiver of an ill family member who has experienced a lot of isolation, similar to the many seniors that the Food Bank serves. Volunteering to her means staying connected with others, witnessing the troubles that others face and learning from their struggles. It “keeps me grounded”. She appreciates the gratitude given to her. “People genuinely appreciate that you genuinely care”.
Nathan Kumaru volunteers with The Corner’s Food Delivery program, a service that delivers freshly prepared meals to isolated seniors six days per week. Nathan describes his experience of volunteering as being an essential part of helping him weather some difficult times. It “gives me a sense of purpose”. Through volunteering he saw the huge need of people and the gaps that are in the system to serve them. It sparked an interest in what his role is in the community. Looking beyond his own problems or problems in the world, “I can do something in my own neighbourhood”.
Youson Choi also volunteers with The Corner’s Food Delivery program. As a new immigrant, arriving just before the pandemic, he experienced his own sense of isolation and loneliness in a new country where cultural norms and connections are very different from his home country. He said that he used to think about life more in terms of “receiving rather than giving”. The biggest impact of volunteering has been the human interaction with vulnerable seniors, appreciation for the work of his volunteer colleagues and the opportunity to put into practice his spiritual beliefs about what it means “to be a good neighbour”.