Anyone who has ever done any volunteer work will tell you that they get far more from the work than they give. In helping someone who has, in some way, less than you do, whether its mobility, a home, family, or whatever, makes one appreciate what one has, and the gratitude of others, even when unspoken, is immensely rewarding. Doing your bit financially is often the only way we can help, and the rewards for that X euros/dollars/pounds or so each month aren’t so obvious.
The Spanish Red Cross (La Cruz Roja Española) has taken that to heart, and is thanking their supporters for allowing them to be able to do the great work they do. The supporters, or socios in Spanish, are the everyday folk who give whatever they can afford on a regular basis, usually without fanfare. Of course, it’s impossible to thank every one of the more than 900.000 socios personally, so each province of Spain has chosen, at random, one supporter to whom to give a personal thank you, as representative of the many.
Last weekend Santa Cruz de Tenerife’s choice was lured to a very public party to celebrate her kindness. I was privileged to be asked to take some informal photos (a video was made but will take a while to be edited). When I arrived at the secret rendezvous close to the Safari Center in Playa de las Americas, where the encounter was to take place, I was amazed at all the hard work which had gone into the event to that point, even selecting and getting permission to use a meeting point where a hundred or so people could meet up, almost in secret, to avoid the lady who had been chosen finding out was a feat in itself. Most of the volunteers were in uniform and there were scores of placards, most spelling out “Gracias Veronica.”
Veronica suspected nothing as she shopped with a friend in the Safari Shopping Center. This complex has a mini son y lumière feature thrice nightly, when the central fountains dance to music on the hour from 8 through 10. The crowd which had gathered to watch and photograph the spectacle assumed that when dancers appeared at the end it was part of the show, but after a couple of minutes they jived their way around to where Veronica stood on one side of the fountain, and their numbers were augmented by children from the Junior branch of Cruz Roja, and it might have been then that she realized that something extraordinary was going on! Certainly she did when a hundred or so volunteers in uniform appeared, as if from nowhere, carrying placards with her name and the world “gracias”, thanks, and on the second floor of the Center posters were held high above the fairy lights spelling out the same message. I’d sneaked along with the volunteers who carried those signs, who’d very carefully disguised their uniforms until the last minute, so that if she passed by she would have noted very little. Again, that was a feat in itself, the organization and the discipline were tremendous.
Veronica has a radiant smile, which light up her face, as she was thanked by people representing the various recipients of Cruz Roja’s work. It must have been incredibly emotional for her …… it certainly was for those of us watching, to know that the contributions she makes are appreciated and well-used. There was cake, which she gracious cut and handed out afterwards, and a final message of thanks on the neon billboard of the theater opposite as she turned to where a table had been secretly positioned during the ceremony, for cake and sodas.
Goodness knows what the scores of tourists made of it all, some asked, and those who were likely to have their aperitifs disturbed had received explanations and apologies minutes beforehand. The Safari Center is a mini slice of Las Vegas in the resort areas, a whole world away from the lives of those in need whom Cruz Roja helps, and without the contributions of supporters like Veronica the work would not be possible. It was a reminder that many ways of life converge on this small island, and, indeed, on the planet. It was a fitting place for a celebration, with music and lights and glamour, and a reminder that there are many silent and unsung people and businesses who help those less fortunate, without fanfare or publicity. It was an honor to have been there.