Cafe working conditions in times of lockdown


by Grace Davidson

“Volunteers are the only human beings on the face
of the earth who reflect this nation’s compassion, unselfish
caring, patience, and just plain loving one another.”
-Erma Bombeck.

It is Tuesday, September 27, 2022, hurricane Ian is rapidly approaching Florida’s west coast with winds at 120 mph storm trackers report. The storm made landfall at 3:05 p.m. near Cayo Costa, Florida, bringing with it a huge water surge that would ravage trailer parks land disrupt homeowners lives, and bankrupt insurance agencies. Officials flying over South Florida to evaluate the aftermath, described the damages cities at Fort Myers, Cape Coral, and Sanibel, as “Catastrophic.” The damage was so extensive that the Governor declared the state a national disaster and started calling in the troops and the volunteers from all over the globe. People from all walks of life responded. Amongst the responders, I discovered a group of people who made a special sacrifice to volunteer their time. The dedication, the conversations, and the observations while volunteering ultimately led to this writing.

What volunteering is not!

Volunteering is not an ambulance weaving through traffic in response to a 911 call or a dash to the hospital in response to your pager going off because it is your turn to wear it this weekend. This is not a woman in labor, and one must “Call Chummy” the midwife who hasn’t fully mastered riding her bicycle, but she loved by the children and adults in her community. The dedication to respond to natural disasters is public health at its best. I am reminded of women in history who answered the call to serve. Lillian Wald pioneered New York City’s Visiting Nursing Service in 1893. In 1950, the need for nurse midwives made a difference in London’s East End. This insatiable need to help others inspired the historical drama. “Call the Midwife” based on Jennifer Worth writings.

The 1980 HIV/AIDS epidemic would increase the need for hospitalizations and for home-based services. The health care community, especially in metropolitan cities like New York City answered the call as scientists worked hard to identify and treat the virus. Many of these workers worked long and hard with very little compensation for the services they rendered.

So, what is the difference with volunteering?

Volunteering is willingly offering yourself free of charge to do something worthwhile for another person. This is altruism at its highest. Nurses have been known for working long and hard but there is something to be said about those who have the guts to step away from the bedside to serve without compensation. I `literally watched volunteers respond from all over the globe. I met merchants, janitors, construction workers, actors, roofers, doctors, nurses, pastors, and chaplains. These volunteers demonstrated a love and compassion for another human being only Christ can give.

How did I discover people of liked skill sets in a room of approximately one hundred people. Simple, someone is going to start up a conversation, at dinner… at lunch… at breakfast… in the bathroom… in the kitchen… on the bus…
“What brings you here?” or “Where are you from?” and “What kind of work do you do?”


It was amazing to discover how people had more commonalities than differences. Volunteers ate two meals together every day: breakfast and dinner. If ten people walk up to me each day and ask the same three questions: “What bring you here? Where are you from? And what kind of work you do?” Assuming people are honest in their conversations, you will soon discover that in a room of 100 people, at least 20 people are in the health care field. You will also discover that 45% of volunteers are women. These women represent different generations, they work different specialties, and they volunteer for reasons more gratifying than money. Research supports the fact that women more likely to volunteer than men, and Baby Boomers volunteer than any other generations according to the volunteer research platform, Team stage, volunteering statistics for 2022.


Volunteers tend to gravitate towards those of like skill sets once they disclose in conversation. Health care workers for example tended to gravitate towards each other at mealtimes. Another interesting observation was the diversity across generations. A group of ten health care workers sat together at supper. Five self-identified as millennials or cohorts born between 1981 and 1995. Two recognized themselves as Gen Z’s or cohorts born between 1996 and 2010, and one Gen Alpha born between 2010-2024, and Baby Boomers are born between 1946-1964. An even more significant observation is they were all females. This seemingly insignificant observation supported findings that women are more likely to volunteer than men. However, it does not support the research that amongst cohorts Boomers are the largest group of volunteers. Millennials are taking centerstage as volunteers according to team stage. After any number hours of hard work volunteering, especially in a crisis, no day should end without discussing the events and emotions of the day.


In most cases when incidents occur frequently, a post incident debriefing takes place within twenty-four hours. This principle is important to review the crisis itself and most importantly, the behaviors and emotions of the response team. A principle now guided with mindfulness techniques. Our team carried on this practice of debriefing as a way of decompressing after a day serving others. These debriefings are equally important for the person as the victim as well as persons rescuers. This is a moment of vulnerability when participants share their experience and their response to what was experienced. This is a sacred opportunity to maintain respect, boost morale, correct, and build confidence in each other’s ability. Most importantly, it creates an opportunity to pray for each other. I observed this act of coming together daily as the foundation for building strong teams and resiliency amongst team members.

Volunteers are not immune to challenging situations happening in their own lives as they diligently serve others. This is where we help and support each other within groups. It is often said, “It’s not what happens to you in life, but how you respond to what happens to you.” Charles Swindoll. Others call life challenges “God moments” times when you witness nothing short of a miracle as you witness positive outcomes from life threatening or devastating situations.

Volunteers all have an insatiable need to help others less fortunate than themselves. They leave their homes, their families, work, and businesses for a greater purpose. This is the attitude of compassionate and of loving your neighbor as yourself. Erma Bombeck says it best, they are caring human beings who give of themselves and their time unselfishly. Let us celebrate our volunteers at home and abroad.

Call to action

If you would like to volunteer start in your local community,
Here are a few nonprofit organizations you can volunteer:

Housing: Habitat for humanity, Animal shelters, community Facebook pages.

Organizations: Samaritan Feet, Samaritans Purse, DART, Samaritan’s Purse, HeartsAFire, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics programs) in your state. Charity begins at Home. Start serving others right where you are in your local community.