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Bill Leslie's Carolina Conversations

Volunteer of the Year

Posted April 18, 2007

If you could nominate someone for Volunteer of the Year who would it be and why? Today let us honor those who go above and beyond the call of duty to help others.

Last night I spoke at the Volunteers Appreciation Dinner in Lee County. Chairman Bob Brown noted that the Lee County Commissioners would have to raise taxes if it weren't for the tireless and outstanding contributions of local volunteers. These "hearts of gold" do everything from delivering meals to repairing homes to transporting the handicapped to appointments and jobs.

I recalled a news series I once did on volunteers including Carrie Osley of Lillington. After raising dozens of foster children with multiple handicaps this gentle hero in Harnett County found the time, energy and desire to volunteer to help special needs children in the local school system. Ms. Osley had an uncanny ability to patiently listen to the sometimes inarticulate voices and discern their needs.


Mary Daniel Turner says listening is at the heart of volunteerism. Mary tells the story of a third century Prince. His father wanted him to be instructed in the wisdom of a master teacher and so he sent him to the school where the most renowned of the masters dwelled.

On his arrival at the school, the master sent him into the forest for a year with the instruction that when he returned to the school he was ‘to describe the sounds of the forest.’

After the year the young Prince returned and spoke to the Master of the sounds he had detected: the song of the cuckoo, the rustle of the leaves, the hum of the hummingbird, the chirp of the cricket, the sway of grass, the buzz of the bee, and the whispers and howls of the wind.

When he had finished recounting his experience, the Master told him to return to the forest for another year ‘to listen to what more he could hear.’ Understandably, the prince was puzzled. He had been attentive: what more was there for him to hear? Obediently, however, he returned to the forest.

One day as he sat silently beneath some trees, he discerned faint sounds unlike those he had ever heard before!

The more acutely he listened the more attuned he became to new sounds. There were simply sounds he had never heard before! How wonderful.

When he returned to the Master, he shared, ‘Master, when I listened most attentively, I could hear the UNHEARD: the sound of flowers opening, the sound of the sun warming the earth, the sound of the grass drinking the morning dew.’ The Master responded, ‘to hear the unheard is the discipline for growth, maturity. It is the discipline of WISDOM!’

Mary Nelson goes on to say that volunteers are the ones that learn to "hear the unheard, especially the all too often unheard in our world: the cries of the poor, the moans of the sick, the lament of the abandoned, the wails of the broken-hearted. "

This is National Volunteer Week. Who in your opinion is listening and responding in very special ways?

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  • wpumc youth Apr 18, 2007

    As a youthworker I would like to nominate the volunteers who work with youth at White Plains UMC in Cary. We'll be recognizing them at our youth sunday services this sunday. Truly, adults who work with youth live out the scripture from 1 Thessolonians 2:8 "We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel but our lives as well." Thanks for your insights on listening and volunteering. Rob Phillips

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