Putting others first

Published 11:17 pm Wednesday, September 15, 2010

It seems entirely unsurprising that some volunteers involved in cleaning litter along Suffolk’s roadways talk less about the good that they’re doing for Suffolk and more about the feelings of accomplishment and connectedness to their community that they reap from their work.

After all, such volunteers already represent a special group of people. They’ve already chosen to give freely of their time to serve their community in the full knowledge that there’s little or no chance in it of recognition for them. They’ve already chosen to take the risks that are part of walking alongside rural roadways in Suffolk to pick up the trash that others have carelessly thrown away.

So it’s not really surprising to learn that those volunteers often are selfless to the point of downplaying the benefit they provide to Suffolk and playing up the intangible rewards they receive from having done the work. Perhaps it’s not even surprising that many of those volunteers harbor so little obvious animosity towards the people who so cavalierly foul the roads that they wind up cleaning two or four times a year. It’s hard, after all, to stay angry at unknown people for long and stay healthy at the same time.

Email newsletter signup

Maybe the world has changed so much that folks are not surprised or even disgusted to read that it’s somewhat typical for groups to collect more than a dozen bags of garbage at a time along their relatively short stretches of Suffolk highways. So many people in this world, after all, are only focused on themselves, and the rest of the world ends up living with — or in the cases of people such as Suffolk’s road-cleaning volunteers — cleaning up their messes.

And that’s the point, isn’t it? Suffolk’s volunteers, whether they’re out cleaning roadsides, mentoring children, visiting lonely shut-ins or any of the other myriad things that volunteers around here do to help out their fellow man, make the city a better place because they put others first once in a while. It’s a lesson we could all learn something from.