Chicken Soup for the Volunteer's Soul: Stories to Celebrate the Spirit of Courage, Caring and Communityby Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, Arline McGraw Oberst
Deep within each one of us lies the ability to step up and care for those in need, even though we often feel overwhelmed by a complex world. In fact, more than 200 million people throughout the world offer their time and love to volunteering. See more details below
Deep within each one of us lies the ability to step up and care for those in need, even though we often feel overwhelmed by a complex world. In fact, more than 200 million people throughout the world offer their time and love to volunteering.
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Read an Excerpt
A Reason for Living
"What do you think of suicide?" asked the frail feminine voice on the other end of the line.
I didn't expect a suicide call at 8:59 in the morning, one minute before the Helpline Office opened. Usually suicide calls startled me from a sound sleep after midnight. My caller probably anticipated getting through to the office staff instead of a volunteer who was finishing a shift at home.
During our crisis training, I learned to listen, rather than respond with something flippant like, "I'm against it." I simply waited. The caller continued. As she talked, I checked the proper boxes on her profile sheet.
"I live in a nursing home in a nearby city," she said. "I'm seventy-six and . . . and I'm dying." Her fragile voice faded away as she struggled to catch her next breath. "I have cancer and emphysema. There's no hope that I'll recover. I don't want to burden my family any longer. I just want to die," she said as she burst into tears.
Although I'd answered the Helpline phones for several years, suicide calls still scared me. Life is precious. I was sure that there was no instance where I could condone suicide as a solution.
"Have you talked to anyone at the nursing home about this?" I inquired.
The caller responded, "When I mentioned suicide to one of the nurses here, she got scared and called my doctor, my family and my minister. Everybody rushed in but nobody . . . listened. So I phoned you." Once again, her weak voice trailed off for a few moments.
"I'm listening," I said softly.
"My husband's been gone for nine years now. When I tell them how much I miss him, they say they understand." She continued, "But they can't understand. When I speak of the pain, they promise to up my dose of medication. The medicine only makes me feel groggy." Stopping to cough, she resumed hesitantly, "I told them I'm ready to go home to God. They said suicide was a sin, so I promised I wouldn't think of killing myself again, but I do . . . all the time. I have no reason for living any longer."
Confused and searching for the right thing to say, I asked myself, What can I say to this sweet lady that will help her? Before, I never doubted for a second that suicide was wrong. However, I was disturbed to find myself sympathizing with her reasoning. Certainly the quality of her life would not improve.
I remembered a young man who had called one New Year's Eve-gun in hand. After we talked throughout that lonely night, he said he finally felt a ray of hope. What hope can I offer this distressed caller? I wondered.
I decided to stall for time. "Tell me about your family."
She talked lovingly of her children and grandchildren. They came to visit her often at the nursing home. She loved to see them but felt guilty for taking them away from their own families and activities.
Andrew, her rebellious middle child, had gotten especially close to her during her illness. When he first heard she was dying, he apologized for the times he'd been thoughtless during his young adult years.
As she talked, my mind raced. I thought back to when I was visiting my Grandma Florence in the hospital every day. One evening, just after returning home, I received a call. Grandma Florence had taken a turn for the worse, and they wanted me to come back immediately. As I sat by her bedside, silent tears spilled from my eyes. The nurse tried to console me by saying, "She's ready to die."
Angrily, I retorted, "But I'm not ready to let her die!" Grandma Florence died six weeks later. By then, I was ready to let her go. I was glad God had given me a little more time.
Maybe someone in my caller's life needs more time, I thought. I told her of my experience and said, "Perhaps God is giving someone in your family more time."
She was silent for a few moments before she mentioned Andrew again. "I'm glad I didn't die six months ago, although I'd considered suicide even then."
During our conversation, I learned that during the months after her diagnosis of cancer, Andrew, a skilled woodworker, made her a beautiful casket. Although she never doubted his love, he needed those months to show her just how much he cared about her. But now the casket was finished, and he had time to reconcile.
"Maybe God is allowing you to suffer a little longer for someone else in the family," I suggested.
"Yes, of course . . . it must be Sarah," she answered sadly.
I didn't remember her mentioning a Sarah. "Who is Sarah?" I inquired.
"Sarah is my granddaughter. She just gave birth to a stillborn baby. I'm so worried about her. Her loss seems overwhelming. Perhaps God knows that Sarah couldn't deal with another death right now."
As she talked, this sweet lady's voice grew a little stronger. From my training, I learned this is sometimes an indication that a person is beginning to see a ray of hope. My caller's hope came not from the prospect of her own life improving, but from her perception that God had a purpose for her life. He needed her help on Earth just a little longer.
2000 Ellen Javernick.
You Got Another One, Joey!
I couldn't believe it. Of all the times for this to happen-a flat tire! But when is a good time? Not when you are wearing a suit and you have been traveling for nearly five hours, and, added to this bleak picture, nightfall is approaching. Wait! Did I mention I was on a country road?
There was only one thing to do. Call the local automobile association. Yeah, right. The cell phone I bought, for security and protection from moments like these, wasn't in range to call anyone. "No service," it said. No kidding! I thought.
I sat for a few minutes moaning and complaining. Then I began emptying my trunk so I could get at the tire and tools needed to get the job done. I carry a large, plastic container filled with what I call "just-in-case stuff." When I am training or speaking, I love to have props with me. I hate leaving anything home so I bring everything . . . "just in case."
Cars buzzed by me. A few beeped sarcastically. It was as if the horns were saying, "Ha, ha."
Darkness began to settle in, and it became more difficult to see. Thank goodness it was the tire on the passenger's side, away from the traffic-but that only made it more impossible to benefit from the headlights of passing cars.
Suddenly, a car pulled off the road behind me. In the blinding light, I saw a male figure approaching me.
"Hey, do you need any help?"
"Well, it certainly isn't easy doing this with a white dress shirt and suit on," I said sarcastically.
Then he stepped into the light. I was literally frightened. This young guy was dressed in black. Nearly everything imaginable was pierced and tattooed. His hair was cropped and poorly cut, and he wore leather bracelets with spikes on each wrist.
"How about I give you a hand?" he said.
"Well, I don't know . . . I think I can . . ."
"Come on, it will only take me a few minutes."
He took right over. While I watched him, I happened to look back at his car and noticed, for the first time, someone sitting in the passenger seat. That concerned me. I suddenly felt outnumbered. Thoughts of carjackings and robberies flashed through my mind. I really just wanted to get this over and survive the ordeal.
Then, without warning, it began to pour. The night sky had hidden the approaching clouds. It hit like a waterfall and made it impossible to finish changing the tire.
"Look, my friend, just stop what you're doing. I appreciate all your help. You'd better get going. I'll finish after the rain stops," I said.
"Let me help you put your stuff back in the trunk. It will get ruined," he insisted. "Then get in my car. We'll wait with you."
"No, really. I'll take care of everything," I said.
"You can't get in your car with the jack up like that. It will fall. Come on. Get in!" He grabbed my arm and pulled me toward the car. Crack! Boom! Lightning and thunder roared like a freight train. I jumped into his car. Oh, God, protect me, I prayed to myself.
Wet and tired, I settled into the back seat. Suddenly, a kindly, frail voice came from the front seat. "Are you all right?" a petite old woman asked as she turned around to face me.
"Yes, I am," I replied, greatly relieved at seeing the old woman there. I suspected she was his mom.
"My name is Beatrice, and this is my neighbor, Joey," she said. "He insisted on stopping when he saw you struggling with the tire."
"I am grateful for his help," I responded.
"Me, too," Beatrice laughed. "Joey takes me to visit my husband. We had to place him in a nursing home, and it's about thirty minutes away from my residence. So, every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, Joey and I have a date." With a childish grin she looked at Joey.
Joey's whimsical remark, "We're the remake of The Odd Couple," gave us all a good laugh.
"Joey, that's incredible what you do for her. I would never have guessed, well, you know . . . ," I stumbled with the words.
"I know. People who look like me don't do nice things," he said.
I was silent. I really felt uncomfortable. I never judge people by the way they dress, and I was angry with myself for being so foolish.
"Joey is a great kid. I'm not the only one he helps-he's also a volunteer at our church. He also works with the kids in the learning center at the low-income housing unit in our town," Beatrice added.
"I'm a tutor," Joey said modestly as he stared at my car.
I reflected for a few moments on what Joey said. He was right. What he wore on the outside was a reflection of the world as he saw it. What he wore on the inside was the spirit of giving, caring and loving the world from his point of view.
When the rain stopped, Joey and I changed the tire. I tried to offer him money, and he refused.
As we shook hands, I began to apologize for my stupidity. He said, "I experience that same reaction all the time. I actually thought about changing the way I look, but then I saw this as an opportunity to make a point. So I'll leave you with the same question that I ask everyone who takes time to know me. If Jesus returned tomorrow and walked among us again, would you recognize him by what he wore or by what he did?"
Joey walked back to his car. As they drove off, Beatrice was smiling and waving as she began to laugh again. I could almost hear her saying, "You got another one, Joey. You got another one."
2000 Bob Perks
2002. All rights reserved. Reprinted from Chicken Soup for the Volunteer's Soul by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, Arline McGraw Oberst, John T. Boal, Tom Lagana and Laura Lagana. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the written permission of the publisher. Publisher: Health Communications, Inc., 3201 SW 15th Street, Deerfield Beach, FL 33442.
Meet the Author
Jack Canfield is co-creator of the Chicken Soup for the Soul® series, which includes forty New York Times bestsellers, and coauthor of The Success Principles: How to Get from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be. He is a leader in the field of personal transformation and peak performance and is currently CEO of the Canfield Training Group and Founder and Chairman of the Board of The Foundation for Self-Esteem. An internationally renowned corporate trainer and keynote speaker, he lives in Santa Barbara, California.
Mark Victor Hansen is a co-founder of Chicken Soup for the Soul.
- Santa Barbara, California
- Date of Birth:
- August 19, 1944
- Place of Birth:
- Fort Worth, Texas
- B.A. in History, Harvard University, 1966; M.A.T. Program, University of Chicago, 1968; M.Ed., U. of Massachusetts, 1973
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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When I was looking for another book to read I like the books named CHICKEN SOUP because they have different stories in the book by different people that have written stories in the book . And I like the VOLUNTEER'S book written by the chicken soup . The name of the book that I like is CHICKEN SOUP FOR THE VOLUNTEER'S SOUL . And I have two other books that are by CHICKEN SOUP WRITTERS
'Chicken Soup for the Volunteer Soul' was well received by our volunteers, and it has also touched many people's hearts.
Chicken Soup for the Volunteer's Soul is the best book I have read of the Chicken Soup Books to date. Coming from a family of volunteers and being a volunteer myself, I found this book to be full of courage, caring, compassion, camaraderie, competency, catharsis, charity, charm, comfort and concern. This book caresses the soul and cheers the heart. I will cherish this book forever.
Reading the touching true stories in this collection reveals the true meaning of being a volunteer. Many facilities cannot function without faithful volunteers. The best 'perk' a volunteer gets is the great feeling looking into the eyes of the person receiving their visit or service.
Celebrating the pricelsss gift of time that volunteers give in a myriad of ways each day!Tom & Laura sought to celebrate the variety of ways others choose to be 'givers of time'....may the stories encourage us all to seek to find our special place as a volunteer for an hour, a day...or longer!!
It is good to find that in these days of bad news and never-ending tragedies, there are still so many wonderful and giving people. As a reviewer of these stories, I felt warmed to my soul and uplifted by these caring people. This is a great book to read for a real 'pick-me-up' , to restore your faith in mankind.
What a beautiful and inspiring book! When you feel that the world is going crazy and no one cares for their fellow man anymore, READ THIS BOOK! It is story after story of the immense impact each of us can make in the lives of others. One small step toward another is a giant leap forward for mankind!
¿Chicken Soup for the Volunteers Soul is an inspiration to all of us, to get out there, get involved, and enrich our lives in the process!!!¿ Cindy Wilhite, RN
¿Reading these inspiring stories in Chicken Soup for the Volunteer's Soul is the answer to volunteerism. As you begin to see, hear and feel things differently, you will be motivated in to action. It happened to me.¿
¿Chicken Soup for the Volunteers Soul is a book that will touch the hearts of all who give of themselves to make another person's life better. What greater blessings could a person receive than the satisfaction of knowing that they made a difference in a less fortunate person's life? Each story will motivate the reader to be a more active part of their community and world.¿
¿Chicken Soup for the Volunteer's Soul will show the value of giving of one's self. The reading of this book will be time well spent to improve the condition of your soul.¿
Celebrate the spirit of volunteering.. the soul of connectivity. Person to person. Moment to moment. This addition to the Chicken Soup series advocates the adage: 'Somebody cannot help everybody, but everybody can help somebody.' Read it and let yourself explore the life changes you can create just through reaching out to those in need.