“The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.” — William Shakespeare
Master Gardeners have a gift. The purpose of our organization is to give that gift to others by teaching them about gardening.
What do Ernest Hemingway, Benjamin Franklin & Agatha Christie have in common? They were all volunteers during hard times! Hemingway was a volunteer ambulance driver for the Red Cross in Italy during World War I. Benjamin Franklin was a member of a voluntary fire brigade in Philadelphia. Agatha Christie was a volunteer nurse during World War I.
The year 2020 was full of hard times for so many in serious tragic ways. Volunteerism overall dropped and many chartable and non-profit organizations struggled to carry out their non-profit and charitable purpose in 2020 and continue to struggle in 2021. Some ask: Can a little Master Gardener organization make a difference now, especially since our meetings are on online and so volunteers and members of the public must avoid gatherings?
The answer is yes! Master Gardeners can, and are, making a difference. In 2020, scores of Americans, many who never put their hands in the dirt to plant a seed before, decided to try gardening to secure a healthier and reliable food source for their family. Some, with “cabin fever” during stay-at-home order times, found gardening as a way to get outdoors and relieve anxiety. Unfortunately, many of these gardens failed due to a lack of knowledge about the basics of soil preparation, the varieties to plant, how to irrigate, fertilization, pests, and other problems. Many abandoned their pandemic Victory Garden, but others will stick with it. Master Gardeners, even if for now volunteering online or in small groups outdoors, can assist these new gardeners and help turn them into passionate gardeners.
We can do this with sponsoring online education, plant and tree sales with planting and care advice, and planning for the future. Planning for when we can work with kids in school gardens, operate our popular summer Kids Kamp and all get together again for other activities. But these things, like plants in the garden, need tending now if we want them to grow and be beautiful in the future.
It is important to recognize volunteers for their selfless hard work. However, volunteering is about more than logging hours worked, certificates of achievement or accolades. As an example, Bluebonnet Master Gardener Association members Charlene and B.R. Koehler exemplify the true volunteer spirit. In 2020, despite the pandemic and her own personal challenges, Charlene logged 350 volunteer hours for BMGA, and those are just the hours she took the time to enter into the system! Charlene and B.R. also volunteer long hours with other organizations giving of themselves to their community in multiple ways. When asked why she and B.R. volunteer, Charlene said, “Volunteering is all about sharing one’s time and talents. It is an opportunity to learn and work alongside like-minded people who share the same interests and goals. B.R. and I believe in helping others, our community and ourselves by learning and passing on the knowledge to others.” That is the true spirit and heart of a volunteer.
Without volunteers, many educational, health care and humanitarian needs would go unfulfilled. Volunteers make a positive difference in the lives of others.
Did you know that altruistic volunteerism also provides important benefits to the volunteer? Researchers know that volunteering benefits the volunteer by boosting the volunteer’s positive feeling, known as the “Helpers High.” According to the Mayo Clinic website, research shows that volunteering offers health benefits, especially for older adults, such as:
- Volunteering decreases the risk of depression.
- Volunteering gives a sense of purpose and teaches valuable skills.
- Volunteering helps people stay physically and mentally active.
- Volunteering may reduce stress levels.
- Volunteering may help you live longer.
- Volunteering helps you meet others and develop new relationships.
According to Harvard Health Blog (citing Health Psychology of the American Psychological Association) psychologists “found that participants who volunteered with some regularity lived longer, but only if their intentions were truly altruistic. In other words, they had to be volunteering to help others—not to make themselves feel better.”
In 2021, Bluebonnet Master Gardeners can make a difference in their communities by volunteering and, perhaps, live longer and healthier for it.
“You make a living by what you get. You make a life by what you give.”