As my car raced along the busy turnpike, my focus shifted from the road to the Red Shouldered Hawk in the passenger seat. I could feel its energy rise up through the wool blanket that protected us from each other.
My sister and I had planned to go hiking with her kids. She pulled over when she saw the hawk that had been hit by another car. It was struggling and panicked in the center median of the highway. She made a choice: this animal needed help.
Moments after she called for my assistance, the rescue facility had been alerted and knew to expect us.
Semi-trucks and vehicles rushed by as we approached the frightened and hissing bird. I looked at its fractured wing and the blood dripping from the powerful beak.
His eyes were filled with a mix of fear and courage as he looked directly at me. We wrapped the large bird in my blanket and headed to the rescue facility.
The bird and I drove on. I reflected on my sister’s choice to stop and help. She saw in this wounded animal a call for compassion.
Whether this bird survived its wounds or not, she sensed that this was a situation where she could make a difference. I reflected further.
My sister’s dedication aligns with the women I work with at the United Nations Online Volunteer platform. These are women who want to address global issues and inspire change. Our world is filled with human and environmental struggles and with institutions that feel out of reach and out of date. Where do we find that motivation to step forward and the courage to keep trying in the face of these overwhelming odds? Where do we start? To these questions I often consider this excerpt from The Star Thrower:
A man is walking along a beach, bending down every now and then and throwing something into the surf. Another man watches him do this for a while, then asks, ‘What are you doing?’ The walker replied: ‘I am throwing starfish that have been washed onto the beach back into the sea.’ The other man is incredulous. ‘There are thousands of them,’ he says. ‘What difference does it make?’ The first man pauses, looks up and replies, ‘Ask the one I just threw back.’
My sister understands what this means. A seemingly small act was not small to the animal or to her two young children who sat in the car absorbing her decision to engage. While the world can be a crazy place, it is also filled with people like my sister who see bad situations and take time to formulate solutions.
This desire to contribute exists in all of us. Eleanor Roosevelt the only woman drafter of the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights and a life-long philanthropist, said, “When you cease to make a contribution, you begin to die.” Her words speak to the essence of the human spirit and why we need to participate in the goings on in the world around us. We are all connected to our fellow human beings and our environment.
Similarly, the UN believes volunteer work is critical to our individual and community wellbeing. They take a unique approach to making sure people don’t feel opportunities to help are unreachable. They want to encourage more representation by creating not only an on the ground volunteer base but a global online platform for volunteers.
As part of my work with an organization called Caux Forum: Just Governance for Human Security, I work with a team of UN Volunteers on a project that links the UN Sustainable Development Goals with Just Governance’s Six Pillars of Human Security. Women from different locations around the world bring their experience, enthusiasm and stories of life. They volunteer to deliver the UN’s mission.
Consistently, they lend their voices to large-scale projects that might otherwise not be accessible because of where they live or the circumstances in their life. This unique platform creates momentum and prioritizes adding more voices to the call for change and widespread global representation.
Whether we have a formal platform for harnessing change or we are simply going about our day, everyone lends their voice in the purchases we make, the companies we support, the time and energy we dedicate to initiatives, and in the random choices that foster kindness.
As my sister, the kids, and I pulled into the Wild Heart Ranch Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, I lifted the exhausted hawk and gently placed him on the examining table. The staff began resuscitation immediately. This facility depends on well-trained and dedicated volunteers to help the resident vets and staff in caring for these animals who are recovering and waiting for their moment to return to the wild. I don’t know if the beautiful hawk survived its severe injuries, but I do know my sister decided to make sure it had a chance.
Afterwards, as we sat near a wooded area having a picnic lunch, I listened to my sister tell her young children about why we stopped to help. She talked about empathy for others and how it matters to consider another’s circumstance. My sister was a hero that day. It wasn’t just about the hawk she helped, but she showed her children that they could engage and contribute to the world.
Always seeking to be curious, brave, kind,
Send me a note and let’s start a conversation about how you can volunteer. The possibilities for learning and growing together are limitless.