When I feel like there is no hope left in this world, something I think more and more often nowadays, the one thing that always keeps me going is my weekly shift at Bird TLC here in Anchorage. For those of you not familiar with us, we are Alaska’s pre-eminent wild bird rehab facility. Given my obsession with birds, you’d think it was the birds that help me keep my sanity. And it is to a certain extent. But to a much greater extent, it’s about the people I get to spend my Tuesday mornings with each week.
Working with volunteers is just one of the most unbelievable experiences you’ll ever have because you are with people doing something out of love, devotion, joy – whatever it is that the activity brings to their life. When people are engaged in a task like that, they will do more than most would do for a paying job. They will do things like washing eagle crap off mats that you really can’t attach a price tag to. They will risk having an eagle’s talon sink into their leg, a raven’s beak put their finger in a death grip and an owl land on them demanding mice. They will cut up rats and mice and rip out the innards so the birds only get the best while they heal. They will wash green gunk off walls and generally submerse themselves in all kinds of disgusting goo. And they smile while they do it.
Volunteers are the people that make our communities wonderful places to live. Whether they are helping at the library or the food bank, the zoo or Bird TLC, they are offering their skills and labor freely to make the world a little better place for us all.
In this era of hate and divisiveness, of screamed vitriol and ugly salutes, a day spent with volunteers is like a moment of peace in the eye of the storm. I highly recommend it as a way to feel better about yourself at a time when our national scene only makes you want to move to Canada.