“How I Got Involved in Community Service,” Ensign, Jan. 1982, 73
“Ambulance one-five-nine responding.”
The wailing siren pierced the quiet Saturday afternoon as we sped through town and turned onto the twisting country road. The dispatcher reported, “Be advised, personal injury automobile accident, reported serious. Helicopter en route.”
As we bounced along the bumpy road we began getting equipment ready, not knowing what we would find at the scene. All calls were alike in this one respect—we were racing toward the unknown. Sometimes we had a clue: “possible heart attack,” “unconscious person,” or “injured child”; but until we got there we didn’t know the extent of the injuries or the seriousness of the problem. We had to be prepared; we had to be calm.
Rounding the bend, we saw cars parked haphazardly on either side of the road. A young girl lay on the side of the road, moaning. A woman was kneeling beside her, offering comfort.
The girl was conscious, breathing with no difficulty, no major bleeding. Still, there could be internal injuries or broken bones. Bandages and splints were applied as we talked to her, explaining each procedure. She was loaded into the helicopter and flown to a metropolitan hospital.
In the meantime, her friend was being treated for her injuries by other members of the ambulance team. Soon we were on our way to the hospital.
More than once, in the midst of a life-or-death emergency situation, the thought has flashed through my mind, “What am I doing here? How did I get involved in this?”
I thought of a Social Relations lesson in Relief Society many months earlier which had focused on community service. We had been urged to get involved in good causes, write letters to our elected officials, vote, speak up on issues, be useful in our communities. And it wasn’t long before a real opportunity to “get involved” came along.
I was attending a community meeting when a spokesman from the local volunteer fire company asked for community support in starting ambulance service in our rural area. I immediately felt an obligation, both as a nurse and as a resident of our small town, to offer my assistance. When the meeting ended I went to him and said I would like to help. Eventually he contacted me to see if I was still interested. I assured him I was, although I didn’t know how much time I could give. It wasn’t long before I jointed twenty-eight others in a class to train EMTs (emergency medical technicians). Four months and a great deal of studying later, fourteen completed the course. With determination and cooperation, the ambulance service became a reality; and each time we cared for a sick person or responded to a call for help, I felt I had made the right decision.
In fact, I found it so easy to be involved in the program that it became necessary to stop in midstream and evaluate. I asked myself: Is this a righteous cause? How is it affecting my life? Is my family suffering because of my involvement?
In time, I developed a few workable guidelines to improve my effectiveness both at home and in most kinds of community affairs.
1. Set priorities. Family and church must come first. My daughter’s piano recital was more important than a meeting. A sick child needed me more than a fund-raising activity did. A date with my husband took precedence over other events. I knew that I must plan and take time for scripture study, temple attendance, visiting teaching, sitting with a sick friend, or writing a letter to my mother.
2. Organize. I kept a large calendar on the kitchen wall where everyone could see it; on it I listed all our family’s activities (dental appointments, football games, Scout camp-outs, birthday parties, and so on). A corresponding calendar was tucked in my purse for quick reference when away from home.
It helped to group errands so I didn’t have to be away from home every day. If I was planning to spend four hours at the Red Cross blood bank, I would leave home an hour early and go to the cleaners, stop at the post office for stamps, and do other necessary business. Meals could be planned ahead. This sometimes meant preparing dinner at 7 A.M. so it could be heated at dinner time.
I also learned not to over-schedule my time. If Monday and Tuesday looked busy, Wednesday became a stay-at-home day. I didn’t leave the house until the children had left for school, and I was usually home before they returned in the afternoon. It was often tempting to stay up late and get things done while the family slept, but I found that a good night’s sleep was a must for health and a positive attitude.
3. Get everyone involved. Family support is the magic ingredient for any volunteer. If children are aware of your project and become part of it, they usually help cheerfully. Perhaps they can staple papers together or address envelopes. Making cookies for a bake sale is more fun when they can double the recipe and keep some for the family to eat.
Any woman who gives time to volunteer work needs her husband’s approval and support. It can be manifest in differing ways: when he stays home with the children while she attends a conference; when he delivers a baby crib to the young mother in need; or when he transports those heavy tables and boxes for the bazaar. It is manifest, too, in his gentle hug when her patient dies in spite of all efforts to revive him. Husbands also need to spend more time directly involved with the children when the wife’s community service takes her from home; if both parents are gone at the same time, the children—and thus the parents—will suffer from the parenting loss.
Indeed, a woman can better reach out to others if she is at peace with herself and happy in her own family.
With careful planning, community service can be a valued part of a woman’s life. In so participating, we have put to action the admonition, “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.” (Gal. 6:2.)
After reading “How I Got Involved in Community Service” individually or as a family, you may wish to discuss some of the following questions during a gospel study period:
1. Why is it important for Latter-day Saints to participate in community service?
2. Have you and/or your family ever been involved in some type of community service? If so, discuss ways in which you benefited from the experience.
3. How can a person keep his family and the Church first in his life and still devote time to community service?
4. What are some volunteer activities available to you as a family?
5. Discuss ways in which even small children can be involved in service projects. How can teenagers serve? Elderly people?