John Andrist: It’s Hard to Imagine a World Without Volunteers


Volunteers are good for nothing!

Or perhaps I should say “Volunteers are good — for nothing”.

It’s one of those terms that can be interpreted two ways. But it isn’t a bad opener for a treatise to point out the value volunteerism has in our lives.

Most of us think of candy stripers when they see the word. Hospitals and nursing homes — and those resting in them — are the most obvious beneficiaries in most communities.

When I hear the word I think first about Medora. It gets hundreds of them every summer, contributing enormously to their mission.

If you’ve ever seen an unhappy, unsmiling volunteer, I’ll betcha it wasn’t in Medora. They have a wait list for folks who want to spend a week or more of their summer to help serve visitors.

But there is another facet of volunteering. Church workers and church members who donate the food they have prepared . . . band mothers . . . folks who organize benefit gatherings . . . work bees . . . service club members . . . people who serve on boards governing all kinds of worthwhile organizations . . .volunteer firemen and community ambulance drivers and EMTs.

Some of them get frustrated in their calling, like those of us who budget most of our time to working for hire, but you can tell they are happy in what they do to find their satisfaction in life.

It’s hard to imagine a world without volunteers. They are the best possible reminder that amid a world with too much evil among many of us there is a whole lot of good in most of us.

A satisfying small world

I can spend a lot of time scanning a world globe.

That’s why I bought one to place in the library of this place where I live. It holds as much fascination for me as space.

Examining my globe peaks my curiosity for so many things, and I can usually find most of the answers on the internet. One interesting thing I discovered this week is that almost 30 percent of the people on our planet live north of the 49th parallel which is the line that separates most of Canada to the U.S. Most of them live in Europe.

The Canadian border (49th parallel) is south of all of Scandinavia, all of Britain, all of Mongolia, Belarus, and the Ukraine, part of France, most of Germany, almost all of Russia, and all of Poland.

Want more? Draw a line straight west from Oslo and you will be close to the southern border of the Northwest Territories.

Previously this fascination has taught me how far south that Canadian border reaches in eastern Canada. You don’t realize it with a flat map, but take a b-line west from Windsor, Ontario and you pass through Nebraska and northern California. Oh yeah! And Windsor, a sister city to Detroit, is actually south of the motor city.

One more surprise. Did you know 70 percent of Canadians live south of the 49th parallel.

Brazil is south of us, right? Well Rio, where the Olympic games are taking place, is also very far east, about three time zones east of New York, six from San Francisco.

Never let anyone tell you they don’t learn from this column. It’s just that most of it isn’t very useful.


Here is some pretty clever stuff to finish this week’s column:

  • I changed my car horn to gunshot sounds. People get out of the way much faster now.
  • Gone are the days when girls used to cook like their mothers. Now they drink like their fathers.
  • I didn’t make it to the gym today. That makes five years in a row.
  • I decided to change calling the bathroom the John and renamed it the Jim. I feel so much better saying I went to the Jim this morning.
  • Last year I joined a support group for procrastinators. We haven’t met yet.
  • Old age is coming at a really bad time. When I was a child I thought “Nap Time” was a punishment. Now, as a grown-up, it feels like a small vacation.
  • The biggest lie I tell myself is, “I don’t need to write that down, I’ll remember it.”
  • If God wanted me to touch my toes, he would’ve put them on my knees.
  • Why do I have to press one for English when you’re just gonna transfer me to someone I can’t understand anyway?