Senior woman as passenger in car

Jay CoppBy Jay Copp

For years I saw the notice in my church bulletin about Interfaith Community Partners and its need for volunteer drivers. I’m too busy with my job as a magazine editor and our three boys, I thought. Then I retired and I remembered an AARP Magazine story about volunteering. A volunteer opined that the first third of your life is for yourself—getting educated. The second part is for career and family. The last third is for giving back.

Works for me, I now realized.

The world has so many problems and needs. The least I can do now that I have some free time is to pitch in and make a small difference one ride at a time.

I really enjoy interacting with the clients, making small talk, getting to know them a bit and finding common ground. It seems I can relate to every client in some way. In one case, that was startlingly true. The client, in her 90s, lives in Indian Head Park. She told me she once worked for St. Cletus School. “So did my mom,” I told her. She told me she was the school secretary. “That’s what my mom did!” Turns out she was my mom’s predecessor. It’s a small world, and being a driver shrinks it even more as I happily get to know the clients a bit.

My dad is now 90, so I can relate to the older clients and their struggles. I try to remember what rich lives they’ve had and it’s a privilege to be a part of their lives. What I discover about them is often very edifying. One woman I drive to her water yoga class has seven children, as my mom and dad did. Her late brother not only fought his way across Europe with the U.S. Army but was seriously wounded in the Battle of the Bulge. How could you not want to help someone with that background and life experiences?

I also enjoy driving the LT transition students. One young man is an avid sports fan, so we banter about sports and find common ground there.
One of the real benefits about driving is the gratitude of clients. Nearly unfailingly, they thank me in a genuine, heartfelt manner. It’s a cliché, but you do receive more than you give.

I’m not worried about driving clients during the pandemic because precautions are taken. I wear a mask as does the client, who sits in the back seat. I also have hand sanitizer with me.

In fact, during these difficult days, I am more motivated than ever to help others. These are such trying times for so many. The news is full of one dire story after another. Yet the media also recounts many inspiring stories of people moved by the suffering who are helping out in heroic and innovative ways. Driving people is not earthshaking or necessarily inspiring. But it is as needed as it was before the pandemic. So I will keep doing it.