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Matt Lauer hosts an annual charity golf event for the Florida hospice that cared for his dad.
Matt Lauer hosts an annual charity golf event for the Florida hospice that cared for his dad. / JaredÊA.ÊGab/Palm Beach Daily News

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One of the lessons my wife and I try to teach our kids is that giving back is not something you do just at the surface level. It’s something you should really dive into, with consistency and follow-up. That’s why we concentrate our time and energy on a few causes that are very near and important to us as opposed to lending our name to everything.

Chief among them is the Hospice of Palm Beach County, which cared for my father when he was dying of lung cancer. Being exposed to hospice was completely eye opening. Though it may sound strange, it was a wonderful education at the most crucial time.

Along with trained nurses and physicians, volunteers would come to our home two or three times a day to do things like bathing my dad, and making sure he was comfortable. They offered advice, wisdom, and counseling. They prompted us to ask difficult questions, things we were almost too embarrassed or ashamed to ask on our own.

The fact that these people who didn’t know my father took such an interest in his comfort and care was just astounding. Especially because these volunteers know they’re going to invest themselves emotionally in a family’s existence and go through one of the very worst times with them. There aren’t happy endings to these situations.

Since 1998, we’ve hosted an annual golf tournament to raise money for the hospice. And in 2001, we opened the Jay Robert Lauer Hospice and Palliative Unit at JFK Medical Center in Atlantis, Florida. Every week or two, I get another moving letter from a family who’s been helped there. Paying forward the gratitude we felt has been incredibly rewarding.

The one word that always crops up to describe the people who work with hospice is “angels.” I think that word can describe all volunteers. The selflessness of people who give of themselves to help others always makes me stop in my tracks and take a deep breath.

Even in difficult times like these, if you take a moment to reach out to someone in worse straits than you, you’ll be amazed how it will uplift you. You have that opportunity on October 22. I hope you’ll embrace it.

Be sure to check out Ann Curry’s essay as well.

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