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  • Writer's pictureBill Stauffer

Gratitude Friday 1/22/21 - Volunteering to Serve the COVID-19 Helpers

One of the most important lessons I have learned on this journey of life is how having purpose is more valuable a pursuit than seeking pleasure. Pleasure is always fleeting and never satisfying for long. Having purpose keeps you going even when life does not feel so pleasant. You also develop tools along the way. Adversity in the pursuit of purpose is an excellent teacher.

Having even a small purpose can help you feel like you can get through rough times even when the big things seems out of your control. This is something I learned in early recovery, at least it works this way for me. It also fits my life philosophy, which is simply to try and leave this place a little better than I found it. Truth be told I made a mess in the early years and having the opportunity to put some things on the other side of the ledger of life is like a bonus round.

Thinking about this now as the COVID pandemic has occurred when there was a whole lot of rough things already going on for me professionally, the vast majority of which were fully out of my control. Feeling out of control (and isolated) is not good for a person in recovery. So staying busy and finding purpose has been really important for my wellbeing.

As most know, my professional life has been focused in the addiction and recovery realm, mostly in direct care settings. I operated residential and outpatient programs for the better part of three decades. Lots of hands on, on the ground work, often under difficult circumstances. At this point, much of what I do can be done remotely. It has felt odd, and truth be told I have even experienced a form of survivor’s guilt, the feeling I should be in the mix and on the ground, risking as much as my colleagues still in the field.

So not a day has gone by since March when my thoughts have been with our essential workers and what they must be going through daily. It is rough work even in the best of times. With COVID, they are dealing with profoundly difficult things, stuff that leaves a mark on your soul. I know from experience that there is an inherent trauma load in helping others. Right now they are taking on more than ever and there will be a price to be paid. They know it, and they are doing it for our community. They deserve every bit of recognition and support the rest of us can muster, now and in the coming years as their sacrifices at this time may well result in the need for help and support in the future.

So what am I grateful for? I am grateful that last Friday I was able to volunteer with the Allentown Volunteer Medical Reserve Corps (AVMRC), through the Allentown Health Bureau to support our 1A essential care workers to get COVID-19 vaccines. I signed up with the AVMRC twenty years ago after I received some specialized training in trauma response after the 911 terrorist attack. It came out of a desire to be part of the solution in the event of an emergency or other community need. I kept my information up to date for these last 20 years, but never got mobilized until now.

For the record, what I am actually doing is not hard, in fact it could not be any easier, which also feels good at this moment in my life. I am essentially a traffic coordinator, helping people move through the vaccination process so that the medical professionals providing the shots can focus on what they do and get vaccines into arms. I help keep the flow going, as well as provide the occasional comforting word. For me, simply being able to support our medical professionals in my community in this small way is therapeutic. I have the opportunity to support the people who are saving lives and dealing with very rough things day in and day out. It feels right. I am going back in coming weeks as well.

Live in or around Allentown and want to get involved? You cannot simply show up! There is a process you need to go through first - LINK HERE.

What is it:

Allentown Volunteer Medical Resource Corps (AVMRC) is volunteer base of community members who work with the Allentown Health Bureau and disaster response professionals during emergencies and at other times throughout the year to address the public health needs within the City of Allentown. Health professionals as well as community members with other skills and experiences play important roles during the response to public health emergencies.

If you live elsewhere in PA go to SERVPA, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania's online registry for medical and non-medical volunteers and become a volunteer in your community.

I am grateful for the opportunity to serve those who save lives, even if it is in this very small way.

What are you grateful for today?

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