BY dR. DAVE HEPBURN | OCTOBER 24, 2012
I have always been impressed with the fact that volunteers are amongst the happiest and mentally healthiest people in our community. In the hospital, in the nursery, or out in the community making meals, driving meals, driving others, reading to others or whatever else needs to be done to help their neighbors, their community, their fellow man. Those who recognize the need to help have learned and earned the rewards associated with service and the richness of a life of compassion. Those, on the other hand, whose lives basically revolve around going to work, making money, and then being constantly entertained in one way or another have seemingly little priority or use in their lives for service to others. Worse yet, their kids are growing up with little desire to help anyone other than themselves.
They have never been shown that going out of their way to help others was important to their parents. These may be the same parents who go to great lengths to ensure their children will grow to be clever and multi-talented in sports or music or education. But to what lengths do they go to teach their children empathy, service and kindness.
Compassion is not taught in any school curriculum. Volunteerism is not a phase that suddenly dawns on old retired folk but rather is an attitude developed over many years of practice and it must be taught, by example, in the home. There are young men growing up never seeing their father providing selfless service. The concern about Hurricane Isaac this year reminded me of the disastrous consequences of that type of paternal negligence in the Katrina battle of New Orleans seven years ago. Some, when suddenly faced with an adversarial situation, will naturally think; “What can I do to help those in trouble?” while others will reflexively think of helping only themselves and their own immediate family. We found those images and stories disturbing but before we condemn the looters (and others apparently bereft of any moral fiber) I would suggest that those who go day in day out in our own community without helping others may not be much better.
My job on summer weekends, apparently, is to zip my boat around Lake Cowichan trying to flip my son and his friends off their wakeboards and tubes, dislocating as many shoulders as allowed under medical billing guidelines. While towing my boat back home one day I noticed smoke in the rear view mirror of my truck. The smoke and mirrors was from my trailer tire, whose bearings had exploded and left me in a real pickle. It was a dark and stormy night so I was forced to abandon my boat trailer at a nearby hospital parking lot. Next morning the father of one of the boys called to offer to help fix the trailer. Not knowing a bearing seal from a Bering seal, I accepted, and the next five hours were spent with this dad and his son chasing about with me to get this, that and the other to fix the trailer. He willingly spent half his day helping me for no reason, reward or recognition. His 16 year-old son, having obviously done this many times before, loved it.
No doubt about their values or how valuable they would have been in New Orleans.
Opportunities abound for us to personally exercise real benevolence (a word that is unfamiliar to many people and is also ... unfamiliar to many people) and to teach our kids service. As summer comes to a close, many parents will fuss and feather about their children getting on the right team, the right coach, the best teacher or get into all the right programs. Yet as the year progresses that child will have not been taught to lift a finger to help others. So make sure that before all of the "important" things are organized, that first, those kids .... have the right bearings.
Dr. Dave is returning to Africa on safari in September 2013!! If interested in going with him, call 888-432-8344 to find out more.