Volunteer spirit pervades community

As recently reported in The Commercial, the city of Redfield was just named as an Arkansas Volunteer Community of the Year. These awards are co-sponsored by the Department of Human Services Division of Community Service and Nonprofit Support, the Arkansas Municipal League, and the Office of the Governor. According to the DHS website, these awards are designed to offer thanks and a reward to the communities as a whole (rather than as individuals within the communities) for their volunteer effort in serving their neighbors.

We want to congratulate the people of Redfield for the shining example they have set for the rest of us. When people come together like this, a number of positive things happen. Most obviously, the communities receive the benefit of time and energy from its volunteers. Projects get completed that otherwise might not have been started. Vacant lots get cleaned. Buildings get painted. People are taught to read. The hungry get fed. The elderly receive care. Residents see their neighbors working to build something larger than themselves. Young people become inspired to careers in public service and lives devoted to helping others.

There is no community in the world that wouldn’t benefit from a little more of these things. The Volunteer Community of the Year award acknowledges this truth. The process to get there is a long one. The selection committee starts collecting nominations in the summer of each year with a nomination period extending through early fall. Communities submit nominations describing their local volunteer activities and these nominations are reviewed by a panel of citizens representing a cross section of the state.

“We are proud to recognize these communities for their volunteer spirit. Their volunteers work hard to make sure area needs are met and that makes these communities better places for everyone to live,” Sherry Middleton, director of the DHS Division of Community Service and Nonprofit Support, told reporters as she announced this year’s recipients.

The 19th century Unitarian minister Edward Everett Hale once wrote: “I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do.”

There’s a great deal of power and wisdom in Hale’s sentiment. We all lead busy lives. We have full days fraught with a thousand tiny fetters, each demanding our free moments. It’s all too easy to “not have time for that.” With just a little effort we can convince ourselves that we don’t have time to help. We can convince ourselves that we don’t have the resources to help. We can convince ourselves that nothing we could do would matter.

As Hale’s admonishment instructs, there is something each of us can do. Perhaps it is small — picking up the litter in front of where we live. Perhaps it’s huge — running an after-school program for at-risk youth. Perhaps it’s somewhere in between. Whatever it might be, it’s worth the effort. It’s worth the time. Your little act might just inspire someone else to a slightly bigger act.

The 18th century Irish statesman Edmond Burke once observed: “Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little.”

Acts of kindness, charity and volunteerism are like single drops of rain. By themselves they may mean little, but in their collective force, they can move the Earth.

Again, we heartily congratulate the people of Redfield, and we hope that other communities will build on their fine example.