Opinion: Making the most of life

Cloverdale's Sue Riley says the secret to happiness is to help others

How many times have you walked down the street, and someone smiled at you and you smiled back? How did it make you feel? Good, I’ll bet, and you probably smiled at the next person you met, and they smiled at someone else. They volunteered to brighten your day, and you, the next person you met. That is what volunteering is all about, giving from the heart. We can give in so many ways.

Did you know that visiting a sick friend, or calling someone to say hello or giving a honest compliment is an act of volunteering? So many people have no idea how a life is touched by these simple actions.

I never thought about it, but when I helped my dad around the house instead of going out to play, that, my friend, was volunteering. Whenever I did something for someone other than myself. That was volunteering. How many times have you volunteered in your life time without knowing it?

I got my sense of volunteerism from a service group called the Knights of Columbus. They came every year and sang Christmas carols, which we always sang with them. It really lifted our spirits. They gave us a Christmas Hamper with a turkey. Without it we would not have been able to enjoy the Christmas dinner that we were so thankful for. I can honestly say that touched my heart and my life.

As a young girl, I volunteered as a Candy Striper. Twice a week after school, I would take the bus down to the hospital and entertain the children in the pediatric wards. I read stories, sang songs, played games. I think I had more fun than they did. It helped them forget where they were and why they were there. Some days I would go to the geriatric wards and spend time listening to the patients’ stories, or telling them mine.  I comforted them and they comforted me. It was a win-win situation.

I carried on volunteering even when my life got busier.

I still volunteered at the hospitals. I made coffee and consoled all those in the waiting room anxiously pacing waiting to find out their diagnosis, or one of their loved ones. I did the information desk, fielding inquiries and directing calls. I visited care homes. Sometimes they would remember me when I came again to visit, sometimes they wouldn’t. Just being there was what it was all about.

I still volunteer today. It is and always will be a part of my life. When you give, you get back. If nice guys finish last, then please put me at the end of the line.

Give and you shall receive. No truer words were spoken.


– Sue Riley lives in Cloverdale



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