Ordinary people doing extraordinary things
The beauty of ordinary lives of ordinary people is that they achieve extraordinary things without notice.
That thought pervaded the mind this week when reading that the St. Vincent de Paul Society celebrated the 175th year of service in Ireland during a day long event in the Convention Centre in Dublin on Saturday last which was appropriately titled 'Serving in Hope".
Over those 175 years thousands of volunteers have worked assiduously and anonymously to distribute with great prudence the donations of yet more ordinary people to help those in need.
Here in Dundalk the Society has had a presence for almost all of those 175 years, and today, in town, upwards of 100 volunteers work unobtrusively to respond to those seeking their help.
In some cases volunteers have been with the Society for much of their lives, and in many cases, at great personal sacrifice, for at times they ignore the infirmity the comes with age, and at times sickness, to attend their weekly meetings so that they can undertake the necessary visitations.
At times these ordinary people have to encounter the scepticism and the apathy that almost all charities have had to endure following a succession of unsavoury revelations in regard to a number of charities, but they accept that this is an understandable reaction of some to the scandals that were unearthed.
They have also had to undertake training in new procedures introduced by government to ensure that there is good governance and proper protection not just in their funds, but perhaps more importantly in ensuring child safeguarding and that the data of those with whom they come into contact is protected under the law.
Naturally these new procedures have placed an extra burden on volunteers, and has demanded of some the need to confront modern technology.
This they have undertaken, not with relish, but with acceptance for they know that the ordinary people who donate so generously to SVP and other charities demand transparency, and that every shilling donated must be accounted for.
Over those 175 years the Society has encountered different needs, for the deprivation that existed in the last century is not longer evident.
Today the volunteers visiting homes in Dundalk are faced with modern day problems, such as housing, with rents soaring almost 50% in town in the last few years, the consequences of addictions not just on individuals but their families, and the onerous burden carried by single parent families.
The volunteers respond to these demands with great compassion, dedication and trust, and although they seek no recognition or reward, yet they should be aware that any caring society would be a lot poorer without the presence not just of volunteers within the SVP but many other organisations in town who give of their time and skills to help others.
Ordinary people, doing extraordinary things.