Written by: Susan Kumah, volunteerTo many, the term ‘volunteer' means performing a service voluntarily. Contrary to the popular consensus, a Red Cross volunteer is not – and cannot be – defined according to his or her mainstream counterpart: Red Cross volunteers are especially distinct. Here, volunteering is not a singular service but instead numerous selfless acts that multiply tenfold. These acts of charitable commitments have inspired what we have come to know as Red Cross Month.
Officially proclaimed 'Red Cross Month' in 1943 by Franklin D. Roosevelt, March is a month that formally celebrates volunteers and their service, and rightfully so. With volunteers making up more than 95% of the American Red Cross work force, the organization by its very structural makeup is a network of givers. Few know the contributions of ordinary people doing extraordinary things. This month, the American Red Cross celebrates each emergency worker, praises all blood donors, salutes every financial supporter and more. Whether it is on a one-to-one basis or in a group, physical and financial needs are being met everyday by a diverse group of volunteers or – as we like to call them- everyday heroes.
Everyday heroes appropriately deserve everyday praise. Describing volunteer contributions almost attracts a library of clichés: volunteers are 'changing futures' and 'saving lives'. The temptation of heaping cliché upon cliché should often be resisted, let's face it, clichés are thoughtlessly overused. But if ten minutes of a student's lunch break can add decades unto a cancer patients life through a blood donation- call it what you may: clichés, truisms or trite phrases – it really doesn't matter; these acts are quite simply, life-changing. Even though many volunteers will never know the entirety of their self-sacrifice, Red Cross will spotlight their many tremendous efforts this month.
“During the darkness of storm, we see what is brightest in America -- the drive to shield our neighbors from danger, to roll up our sleeves in times of crisis, to respond as one Nation and leave no one behind.” In his 2015 proclamation of Red Cross Month, President Barack Obama notes the essence of Red Cross volunteerism: simplicity. The simple gesture of rolling up ones sleeves and shielding ones neighbor declares the simplicity of heroic action unique to Red Cross volunteers. In addition to this simplicity, Obama's statement rightfully addresses the ethos that the American Red Cross is founded upon: solidarity and a commitment to the national community.
To put it simply, everyday heroes abandon their needs and seek out the needs of others. They often contribute in the background while attention is given to the nature of disasters, its survivors, and wreckage. Well this month, we all return our gratitude to Red Cross volunteers. This month we ask you to remember our heroes' place within the action. More so, let us respect their namesake; remembering their efforts not only this month but also everyday.