by Markus Stolz

Real
volunteers

byMarkus Stolz
May 18, 2010, 2 Comments

Greeks are people who have a sense of realness and of genuineness about them. As I have mentioned in a previous post, I have in this country the status of “politeknos“, i.e. someone with many children. To actually reap the benefits of this status, it is required to possess a “politeknos” ID card, issued by all “politeknos” associations operating in Athens. With this card, it is possible to obtain the benefits provided by the state, i.e. public transport discounts, discounts in electricity and water bills, entrance fee waivers to museums and other cultural bodies etc. Families below a particular income are also entitled to food, like pasta, rice, or bread, all of which they can pick up by any of the “politeknos” associations. These associations are staffed with volunteers who are “politeknos” themselves, to help out their often very needy fellow citizens.

My wife’s and my ID cards recently expired, and a dear family friend volunteered to get it renewed for us. Our friend, Katerina, is a lady who has during her entire lifetime held jobs, where “organising business environments to utmost efficiency” has been the key concept.

Katerina arrived at the association’s premises, at a dingy and humid basement, at exactly the advertised opening time of 17:30 p.m. The helpful volunteer staffing the office arrived about 20 minutes late, and people outside had already started queuing.

The crowd literally jumped on the elderly lady, and everyone demanded noisily to be served first. The lady was clearly lost and besieged in her desire to assist everyone. She must have been doing this job until then purely on the account of her angelic patience and stoicism, not by her resolution effectiveness.

Katerina stepped up to her and asked: “Would you like some help?”

The offer was greeted first by silence, then by disbelief, and very soon by relief: “Please, have a seat, do you think, you would be able to fill out these forms, as per instructions?” Katerina obliged, and it came naturally to her to instantly start suggesting a few filing improvements. The lady was delighted. They went on both happily working away, giving out coupons, distributing food, and filling out forms.

Katerina spent 4 hours at the office. At 10 p.m. the crowds had been dealt with, and she was ready to leave. The lady couldn’t thank her enough and started giving Katerina food to take along, to show her gratitude. Katerina declined, but left her phone number with the instruction that she could be called at any point, and if she had time, she would immediately come and help out.

In the past, Katerina had on numerous occasions offered to do volunteer work by addressing relevant bodies directly, like the management of orphanages, blind homes, elderly homes, and was frustrated that she never got a response. In the setting where she was just helping out another fellow citizen, she finally got her volunteer work. Her concluding remark about her experience was: “This lady is extremely nice, all she wants to do is help other people, even if they are rude. The problem is that she is too disorganised to do so, and I will get her up and running efficiently over the next few weeks.”

Two “good” people had met, who both fit in extremely well into this country’s profile and mentality: The genuinely helpful volunteer, who fulfils a job despite lacking qualifications, and Katerina, the truly caring human being! I can assure you that there are lots of both types of these people in Greece.

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  1. Markus, this is a wonderful post, written from the heart, as always. There are many good lessons for all of us here… There can never be enough “real volunteers” in this world.

  2. ChristineMay 18, 2010, 10:04 pm

    This is touching. I love it.