Image courtesy of Lynne McMahan
Animal Speak - June 2017
In Service, by Heart
By Lynne McMahan
“The heart of a volunteer is not measured in size, but by the depth of commitment to make a difference in the lives of others” (Women On Call, https://www.womenoncall.org/)
I love that this month’s theme is activism in action, because the volunteer work I do has become such a critical piece to my semi-retired work life. When I was younger and teaching or being an administrator, I found it extremely difficult to commit to volunteer activities and though I was in service to my students, their families and my staff members, my animal service life was only to my own animal family and not the hundreds of animals I am now able to serve.
I did not just come to volunteerism on my own, it was cultivated as a part of life with my mother and father who were wonderful volunteers and contributors to their small town community and the larger community of the world, as well. They helped the formation of their church, were involved in the local historical society, and brought students from all over the world to experience life in their home town through the American Field Service program (AFS). They hosted a few of these wonderful “kids” who have become my sisters and will forever be family to us. They also encouraged us to devote time helping the elderly and disabled children who needed extra support in our community.
Coupled with my parents’ sense of service, I was also blessed to be a child growing up in an era when we were called to action as a nation to “ask not what your country can do for you -- ask what you can do for your country” by our 35th president, John F. Kennedy. Out of his vision, the Peace Corps was founded and continues today, 56 years later, a foundation for the all of us to think beyond our own individualistic needs and wants but to a greater calling, the world outside of us. President Kennedy also said, “as we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”
If we truly appreciate the life we’ve been given and the privileges we’ve been afforded in this country, then being of service to those who do not share our same privilege is the highest form of appreciation I can think of and live by.
Volunteering at the animal shelters and sanctuaries may not be what you’re drawn to, but there are definitely numerous ways to share your time, your money and and/ or your healing energy in our local community and the community beyond. I will however, focus this column on the volunteer opportunities I have been blessed to experience. These experiences have been a support to my community as well as my own personal development by being in service and appreciation for all that I have and am able to share.
From previous columns I’ve talked about Kindred Spirits Animal Sanctuary (KSAS, http://www.kindredspiritsnm.org/) and the Santa Fe Animal Shelter (SFAS, http://sfhumanesociety.org/). I want to share the volunteer opportunities from each organization.
From the KSAS website:
"Many dedicated volunteers support the work of Kindred Spirits through their ongoing efforts. In addition to cleaning, feeding, brushing and cuddling resident animals, volunteers give our seniors the invaluable gift of their love. Volunteering is a great way to help animals and meet other like-minded people. You’ll also have the chance to enjoy the peaceful and serene setting of our beautiful Sanctuary. You don't need to have any specific experience, and we’ll provide on-the-job training. The rewards are priceless...Volunteer Needs: Hands-on Care, Hospice Nursing Care, Grooming Skills, Grant Writer, Community/Business Outreach, Handyman Skills, Landscaping Maintenance, Sewing Skills, Tractor/Field Work."
From the SFAS website:
We at the Santa Fe Animal Shelter maintain an active and vital volunteer program that encourages volunteers to participate both directly with animals as well as doing “behind the curtain” work such as administrative assistance and kennel maintenance, returning feral cats to the wild streets of Santa Fe County and assisting in surgery. Whether you wish to volunteer by spending time directly with the animals, by teaching human principles to children, or by participating in any number of other volunteer opportunities, we and the animals welcome your help…[and] We need foster families! Our foster families care for animals that aren’t ready for adoption. Most foster placements are two to six weeks, and are for nursing mothers and their litters, young kittens, puppies, injured pets or animals needing socialization or time away from the Shelter.
The following video shares a volunteer’s experience at the shelter and the benefits she receives from her dog walking volunteer time: https://vimeo.com/9426009.
In closing I want to share two very poignant quotes from two of my favorite historical mentors. The first, Mother Theresa, stated “In this life we cannot always do great things, but we can do small things with great love.” The second, Mahatma Gandhi adds to this, sharing, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” My hope for all of my readers is that they find those small things to do in service of others and to do them with great love.