A Volunteer’s Perspective – The Gift of Thank You

26777779870_39d8d36276_oThey came in droves. Little ones and big ones, some wearing Cub Scout hats and others dresses. But all had the same purpose – to send a note of thanks to the service men and women defending their freedom whom they have never met.

As a first-time volunteer for the American Red Cross, I wasn’t sure what I should expect from my first assignment at the NBC 4 New York Telemundo 47 Health & Fitness Expo at MetLife Stadium on Saturday, May 14. I was quickly assigned to man the  Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces booth, with my task being to ask people to write a note or draw a “thank you” picture for the men and women serving our country. These notes will go into care packages for service members, reaching these heroes in distant stretches of the world, who may be very far from the conveniences of modern life and the warmth of friends and family. Others will brighten the days of veterans right here in New Jersey.

My first tip came from the volunteer whom I was relieving from her four-hour shift, “Stand in front of the table in the crowd,” she said. Check! Task one accomplished. I knew that adults would be easier to get on board, it’s harder to say no when you understand the full impact of the sacrifices our service people make. The cards started to build up in the collection box and the swelling sense of pride in the people who said without hesitation “Yes, I’d love to!” slowly burned inside me.

26448621323_cc60613c7c_oWhat I did not expect was the great mass of children who swarmed the table in droves, often covering every available inch to send their sweet messages. Sometimes they signed two cards at a time, meticulously drawing or writing, spending 15 minutes or more while their parents patiently stood by while their children finished their masterpieces.

In the two-and-a-half hours I stood by that table I saw beautifully designed American flags, pictures of soldiers saluting, airplanes, sunshine and more “thank yous” than I’ve seen in a very long time. Graciousness does exist. True appreciation through the beautiful lens of a child’s eye does exist.

26777771200_93cdd18713_oI can’t tell you how full my heart was as I stood at that table. But even more so, as I think about how those letters will cross miles and miles of ocean to reach a service person – someone’s son, daughter, wife, mother, father, friend who is missing them terribly and how this will wrap them in comfort to know their sacrifice is heard, and appreciated. This is the power of the Red Cross.

To learn more about the Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces, visit redcross.org.

By Michelle Bauman
volunteer, American Red Cross New Jersey Region

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