I received the newsletter from the NC Chapter of AMTA yesterday. There was an article about past winners of a Chapter honor known as the Debbie Long Memorial Outreach Award. Debbie was a former board member of NC AMTA who died from a rare form of cancer. She kept volunteering right up until the day she no longer could, and this award is given in her memory.
In 2005, I received this honor for working with people in comas and persistent vegetative states. As I read through details about the other winners over the years, it was impressive to see the things that my massage colleagues have done. Two of the recipients provided massage to women and children at a battered women’s shelter to give them the experience of safe, non-violent touch. Several volunteered massage at the Paralympics. One gave massage in a pediatric bone marrow transplant unit at Duke University. One gave reflexology to people receiving chemotherapy in a cancer treatment center.
Many AMTA chapters have Emergency Response Massage Teams that go to the site of disasters and massage the emergency responders. I was a member of the one in NC for years. I once went to the site of a huge mudslide in the mountains of NC. 40 homes were lost. Some of the emergency responders had been on the job for 2 straight days when we got there. They were so grateful for a few minutes of massage. It was truly a blessing to be able to give them a few moments of rest and comfort. During 9/11, there were about two dozen massage therapists who regularly traveled from NC for a period of over a year to massage the rescue and recovery workers on site.
Every day, I see people on my social media pages making a difference in their corner of the world. Some are massage therapists like the ones above doing community service. Others have different skills. The owner of a local motorcycle repair shop in my town has organized too many toy runs and benefit rides for me to count, raising thousands of dollars for people in need. Another started a homeless shelter because the one that existed was filled to capacity and turning people away. She was actually taking people into her home to sleep on the floor while she raised enough money to start the shelter. One donates her website-building skills to non-profit organizations. Another takes a trash bag along on her daily walk and does her part for the environment by picking up trash that’s been thrown out on the side of the road. Another makes soup and takes it downtown where the homeless are gathered and passes it out on cold days.
At Soothing Touch, we like to make a difference in our corner of the world. We make a difference by recycling as much as we can. We try to minimize our environmental impact by recycling thousands of gallons of water and packaging materials annually. We have staff members who volunteer in their communities and don’t want recognition. We give whatever we can wherever we are led to give. That’s not likely to be a grandiose donation to organizations who already raise millions of dollars. Most likely, it’s help for a small group in need who doesn’t have a huge budget.
If you don’t know where you can make a difference, just look around. Anywhere there is a soup kitchen, a shelter, a food bank, a senior center, or any other non-profit, chances are they need volunteers. Follow the social media pages of non-profit organizations in your area, and they will often posts requests for what they need. I’ve seen our local homeless shelter post on Facebook that they needed an emergency plumber and they’d have one before ten minutes passed. Habitat for Humanity needs people with building skills and people who can help clean a construction site or serve meals to the workers. Meals on Wheels needs volunteers to deliver meals to people who can’t get out. Charity stores need volunteers to unpack and clean donated items. Animal rescue organizations need foster parents or people to show up and walk dogs. Volunteer fire departments and rescue squads need volunteers. No matter what skill you have, someone needs it, even if it’s just answering the phone or sweeping the floor. When you make a difference to someone, it makes them feel good, and it makes you feel good. We are all on this planet together and we should help wherever, however, and whenever we can. Besides, two different studies have shown that people who volunteer live longer and happier lives. Just an added benefit of making a difference!