April 19, 2018

Why do you Volunteer with Hospice?

In honor of National Volunteer week, Bill Spaulding (pictured below) shares the motivations behind, and the impact of, his volunteer service with Hospice and Palliative Care of Greensboro (HPCG).


As a relatively new HPCG home visit volunteer, I’m surprised by how frequently I get asked the question, “Why do you volunteer with hospice?” It comes not only from my friends and acquaintances, but also from the caregivers for whom I provide relief. My typical answer is perhaps a bit too simplistic:

“I find it to be a way to give back.” 

Life has been pretty good to me. In the past, I have sought out a variety of ways to volunteer my time. I’ve worked with elementary school children to develop their academic skills, with an organization that serves the homeless, and with adults who have English as a second language to develop their literacy skills. I’ve found all of my past volunteer activities to be rewarding and suitable ways to give back.

But something deeper comes from serving as a hospice volunteer; the simple answer, I find it to be a way to give back,” feels incomplete. There is a spiritual benefit that surpasses anything I have known in my previous voluntary efforts. Maybe spirituality—like death, dying, and end-of-life transition—is one of those topics I don’t have much experience discussing. Perhaps I too have seen these topics as taboo in “polite” conversation. Maybe I’ve too long relegated talk of death to the funeral parlor and discussions of spirituality to the church.

I must acknowledge that I don’t always go to bed at night feeling that I contributed to the greater good. My nighttime thoughts don’t often include: “I really did God’s work today!” Rather, I’ve found that serving as a hospice volunteer is a great way to find the divine in the simplest things.

One of my first hospice assignments was to go shopping for a woman who cared for her terminally ill husband in their home. She had meticulously prepared her grocery list so that I could easily walk aisle by aisle through the store, picking up each item sequentially as I went. After shopping, I returned to her home and placed the groceries on her counter. When she thanked me, tears of gratitude filled her eyes. You would have thought that an angel from heaven had appeared to meet her deepest need, yet all I had done was grocery shop.

This was just the beginning of my realization that I may never fully understand how my service benefits another. As I turned to leave she asked me with genuine amazement, “Why do you do this?”  My response was the understated “I find it to be a way to give back.”  When I went to bed that night, a whisper came to me from somewhere in the silence— “You did good today.

Being a hospice volunteer is so much more than just a way to give back.

Bill Spaulding, Hospice Volunteer

Every day, more than 200 HPCG volunteers serve patients, their families and our staff in a variety of ways. Regardless of their unique spiritual beliefs, age, background or skill set, they are united in their desire to give back. Learn more at hospicegso.org/volunteer/.