Check out the title. I could stop right now. It’s a very obvious idea. A million examples could be employed here but a very recent trip to Toronto inspired this blog.

I was in the Toronto airport heading home and I was standing in a line to order my favourite hamburger, a “Papa Burger” at A&W and it was very busy. There were countless people, mostly women and all with dark skin, wearing bright orange vests with “Volunteer” stenciled on their backs and a logo on the front for some organization. These people were obviously taking care of other people with dark skin – all of them carrying canvass bags with the same logo. One of the volunteers was standing in line with me, so I asked what was going on.

She said: “We are volunteers with this organization who meets new immigrants at the airport to welcome them to Canada. This group all came in from Syria and some of them are having their first commercial hamburger ever! So, I’m helping in any way I can.” I don’t know why I asked this, but I did: “Why are you doing this?” She smiled and replied, “Because I’m an immigrant from Syria who came to Canada a few years ago and volunteers like me were at the airport to welcome me and my family and it was such a relief I can’t even begin to explain. It’s really scary to leave your home and go somewhere else you’ve never been, especially for the parents with children who are stressed enough with being a refugee and wanting to care for those they love. It makes a difference!”

This is a simple example and its currency of occurring was a great reminder of something that’s always been a fundamental principle of my entire life. It’s also downplayed way too much as a cure for mental health. It’s the polar opposite of what appears to me as a significant issue among some of our youth.

How often do we hear someone, usually young, say: “I’m an Influencer!” Look, I understand the concept, but I still want to ask: “When did that become a thing?” I’ve been speaking to youth groups for 43 years so I may actually know something about this. And as “old” as this may sound, the pervasiveness of social media is completely the culprit.

There is factual evidence collected by huge studies that conclude the average young person (and it isn’t just young people) in America spends between five and eight hours a day on their device… seven days a week, three hundred and sixty-five days a year! Do some simple math. That’s over 2,900 hours a year or over 120 days! DAYS! Seriously? Well, over a hundred days where a person could be helping someone through volunteering. Apparently, TikTok is more important!

And I apologize for this conclusion, but what screams at me by this statistic is this: too many people have stopped caring about others because they are too focused on themselves – and not in a healthy way.

On another personal note from my trip that only lasted two days… No less than a dozen people spotted me and deliberately came over to offer assistance with things like my luggage or briefcase, which I carry on straps around my neck. I even had a stranger help me with my dinner in a restaurant! That doesn’t insult me. It encourages me to believe that there is a reason for optimism and hope for humanity.

It’s really quite ironic to me that after I had my health food hamburger (that’s an inside joke with my wife, Darlene) I went to the Maple Leaf Lounge of Air Canada, which has exclusive membership for frequent fliers. As I was waiting for the elevator to go to my gate for my flight home, a nervous young woman was looking for help from the Air Canada agent working the lounge entrance. He was politely explaining this was a private lounge and if she needed help, she should go to the customer service counter two floors down. It was none of my business but as she walked over to take the elevator, I asked if she was lost. She definitely was. The elevator came and we both went inside and I asked what she needed.

She told me she was from Cameroon and missed her connection to Winnipeg. So, it was a no-brainer for me. We exited the elevator and I told her I knew where the Air Canada Service Counters was and I led her to them. She told me she was exhausted from her flights and apologized that she spoke little English. I thought she was going to cry. As I left her in a short line to get some help from the airline. she just smiled and said: “Thank You!”

I can’t lie. It made me feel good. That isn’t why we should volunteer, but who doesn’t feel a sense of pride and dignity when we help a stranger in need? And the best part? We are ALL qualified! All we need is time. And if you say, “I am already too busy, I have no time!” Okay. But truthfully, that is a cop out. It’s an excuse. That’s another thing I learned as a child… no excuses.

By focusing on being a “giver”, we not only help someone else – we help ourselves by providing a clue about our purpose in life and why we are all here. To be better… together!