Giving and Getting:  Why we Volunteer

Edythe Falconer, Master Gardener

Symbiosis – association of two different organisms – organisms attached to one another to their mutual advantage.

15% of plant DNA is shared with humans – or vice versus – we are part plant or plants are part human or so I’ve read. So we’re distant relatives? I don’t think we can check this out on ancestry.ca.

Who are the volunteers

Who are the volunteers in the world of gardening? Many will be retirees who work in public gardens such as those found on the Central Experimental Farm. Or they may be folks still working a full time job but who long for productive outdoor work in friendly groups of green thumbers – for example teachers and parents who take on gardening projects for their schools. Or they may work on Community Projects under the governance of the Ottawa Horticultural Society. Or they may be neighbours that spruce up needy areas in their own ‘hoods’ – tired little corners just begging for a bit of brightness, and perhaps a few butterflies to go. Or they may belong to the legions of advisors in Master Gardeners – on line, at clinics and easily accessible.

Volunteers are willing workers

The group that my mother belonged to called themselves – “The Willing Workers”. They held regular meetings and were ready to spring into action whenever they were needed for whatever – catering for special events, visiting shut ins or the ill and beautifying their villages with flower beds and flower pots and window boxes for local stores and churches and the generally elderly.

The beauty of being a garden type volunteer is that it lets you sustain your love affair with something that you care for. You get to share your horticultural passions with other learner gardeners – of all stripes! You grow your own knowledge and share it generously with others. You propagate public visual experiences that both calm and thrill onlookers. You find out that your CPA experience and your skill with computers can expand the range of your contributions – especially if you now have a bad back, a grumpy hip or a tricky knee.

Benefits

How is it that so many of us are willing to spend hours and hours of our spare time, year after year? We do it because we believe the work is meaningful and because we love almost everything that grows. Gardeners are specialists in growing things that enrich the soul and the body too.

Badges and buttons are great as is the camaraderie of working with like minded groups. Best of all is the inner satisfaction of doing something useful and doing it willingly – willing workers we are. Modest amounts of praise are welcomed but at the same time we recognize that our relationships are complementary and mutually satisfying – me, you and the plants in a symbiotic relationship with nature, its mystery, its beauty and its perennial message of hope. Gardening volunteers get as good as they give and vice versa – a powerful winning combo.