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"Sergeant" By Dr. Mike Colson


There is a place in the world that you will have never heard of but within its boundaries reside all the people in the world who need help. It is a funny named place and really hard to remember. I only learned of its existence during my residency when an aging professor called out the name in class: Eleemosynary.

Only one kind of people live in Eleemosynary. They are ones who, for whatever good, bad, or indifferent reason, are in need of good works. Their good cheer, well being, management, and even survival my well depend on the altruistic, benevolent, do-good, charitable, humanitarian, and philanthropic activities of others. It is a place found everywhere on earth that volunteers find their way to…offering alms of goodness and work, commitment and care, sacrifice and service, and even love.

The unique feature of most of us who show up in Eleemosynary is their hearts….volunteer hearts. It’s unique because it generally beats in unison with other people’s needs, wants and desires. This heartbeat has been referred to by the late Mother Teresa of Calcutta in “Come be My Light” as; “the highest form of sacrifice welling up from within a person with few limitations”. Of course, there are limitations, not the least of which is balancing volunteerism with our own hopes and desires. Even the great saint of Calcutta is quoted as praying; “repulsed empty no faith no zeal…pray I keep smiling in spite of everything”. It is a hard path when a volunteer’s heart serves two masters.

So what makes it all worthwhile? First, consider the panoply of emotions, high points, outright victories, and overall goodness you feel when you visit Eleemosynary. That is some pretty powerful energy coursing through your body and mind. For some being a volunteer is the essence of being fully alive, wonderfully articulate in the helping department, and in contact with others in society. Volunteering can be give you a b-i-g confidence boost after you wade into the deep water of complicated challenges and come out on water skis!

I had my own ‘service epiphany’ recently while sitting comfortably in a chair at my home. My son came in and handed me a note found while packing his belongings. He wrote the letter at age six while the family served in Chinhae, Korea. It read;

“Dear Family, Going to youth place (center). I am on diploy (sic). Love, Sgt.”.

With a catch in my throat I looked up to see my family’s youngest member – a twenty-two year old Army 2Lt - punching his own ticket to Eleemosynary…and I couldn’t have been happier. What we do is seen by others. What is seen by others is multiplied in countless acts of goodness. It may not get you to bed earlier after a long volunteer session but it can help you sleep better. Why? Because, the world is a better place with you in it.