Empathy in action: The definition of volunteering

National Volunteer Week is April 24 to 30

Every instance of generosity and compassion, every act of kindness, and every way people have stepped up for their communities have been beacons of hope during two difficult years.

Volunteers – those who contribute their time, energy and talent without any thought to their own benefit – have shone a light on all that is right in our communities. As relentless as the pandemic has been, volunteers have been equally relentless in showing #LocalLove to those facing life-changing hardships.

National Volunteer Week is April 24 to 30 and this year’s theme is “Volunteering Is Empathy In Action.”

With empathy, we can’t help but see another’s humanity and relate to their struggles.

According to the Greater Good Science Center, a research institute at the University of California, Berkeley, empathy has deep roots in our brains and within our evolutionary history.

Studies suggest that people can enhance their natural empathic abilities but empathy doesn’t guarantee altruism. For some, feeling empathy toward someone who is suffering is so overwhelming that they tune it out or ignore it, and we unquestionably validate this natural response. Others, however, take that emotion and turn it into compassionate action.

That’s the definition of a volunteer.

Volunteering comes from empathy but also amplifies it. It’s a circular relationship.

Volunteerism helps us to see the world through the eyes of others, builds our ability to work collectively with those from different backgrounds and viewpoints, and empowers learning and understanding.

Last year at this time I wrote that the collective power of volunteerism “has never been more evident than it is today. Magical things happen when people work together toward a common purpose in times of crisis.”

Magical things also happen when communities rally together to create fair and equitable recoveries after times of hardship.

Volunteers will light the way forward. They demonstrate what is possible when we lead with empathy and act with kindness and love.

Volunteers remind us of our collective humanity and deserve our endless gratitude this week and every week. They are the true heart and soul of our community.

With gratitude,

Brad Park, President and CEO

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