Al Roker visited the Iowa Homeless Youth center in Des Moines and delivered hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of goods to the charity. / Megan Kopf/NBC
Ten years ago, I went through one of the worst experiences anyone can endure: watching my father die of lung cancer.
In his waning days, my father was admitted to Calvary Hospital in the Bronx, which is the nation’s only hospital whose sole purpose is to provide palliative care to terminally ill cancer patients.
The hospital has a top-notch paid medical staff, but what really struck me was the overwhelming generosity and selflessness of the volunteers, who do everything from bereavement counseling to arts and crafts with kids. There are even little old ladies who push a cocktail cart through the halls on Thursdays.
When a loved one is dying, you feel extremely vulnerable. You’re in a place you’ve never been before. It’s uncomfortable and unfamiliar and so overwhelmingly depressing. But the atmosphere at Calvary takes you out of that space. I’m not going to say you feel better, but you certainly feel you’re not alone. You’re buoyed by the support of strangers, people who really care about their fellow human beings without asking anything in return.
I can’t say enough about Calvary Hospital. The only way I can describe it is that those volunteers are God’s angels doing His work on Earth. They made a difference in my father’s life and in my family’s life. And every day in ways great and small, they continue to make a difference. They prove that one person can, on a one-on-one basis, change a life.
If somehow every volunteer vanished tomorrow, so much of this country would come to a standstill: schools, hospitals and libraries. You can’t name an institution that doesn’t depend on volunteers.
So what could be accomplished if everyone in this country, even just for one hour, volunteered on Oct. 22? The possibilities are mind-boggling.
Be sure to check out Natalie Morales' essay as well.