By Debra R. Cox, American Red Cross volunteer
Raison d’être - one’s reason for being. That simple phrase is so significant to human existence that every language has an expression to encapsulate human desire to make a difference. In times of uncertainty, it is easy to move into fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of what tomorrow brings, fear of the safety and security of ourselves and our loved ones. Yet, for me, I have decided to reclaim my life and my raison d’être: to serve. And at the moment, reminders of the need to serve humanity and to support those who serve is more important than ever.
One of the reasons I volunteer for the American Red Cross is because my grandmother died as the result of a home fire when I was a young teen, thirteen to be exact. There was no smoke detector to warn her of impending danger. A courageous neighbor went into that fire to pull her out, as she had been overcome by smoke inhalation. Despite the fact that she died two weeks later when she could not fight the pneumonia that set in, one of the ways I keep her memory alive and attempt to repay that neighbor’s courageous deed is to install smoke alarms as part of the Sound the Alarm program with the American Red Cross of San Diego/Imperial Counties. It has become part of my raison d’être.
We are volunteers. Similar to that courageous neighbor, we move in despite the odds. We often set our own fears aside to bring comfort to those whose lives and hearts have been broken by disasters. We bring our individual talents to the forefront. We dedicate hundreds of hours to train for these events. Because we have a strong sense of our own humanity and because we have compassion, we often hold up long enough to complete our jobs and then, when given a moment of privacy, cry brokenheartedly on the shoulders of our loved ones and other fellow disaster workers. Yet we quickly recover to serve others in the next event.
We are volunteers. Our reasons to volunteer are as varied as our individual identities. We dedicate ourselves to the causes we believe in because we feel we must, because we know that if we do not, perhaps no one will. Now is the time to step outside ourselves and move forward with thoughtfulness regarding our shared humanity. Stay safe but connect with others. Make a call. Simply listening or speaking words of encouragement could make all the difference right now. Given the current state of our country and our world, any effort is meaningful because it comes from the heart. Consider the uncertainty as a beacon to move forward in compassion. Of course we will move forward in a desire to serve. After all, we are volunteers.