Stephen Gay works 10 hours a day, five days a week as the pharmacist at The Prescription Shop at South Zetterower and Savannah avenues.
He also volunteers his time, efforts and energy as one of two violinists in the Celebration Orchestra at First Baptist Church in Statesboro.
Each performance in the orchestra takes around 15-20 hours weekly for practice and preparation.
This takes precious time away from family and other activities he once engaged in. Gay’s interests now have revolved around playing in the orchestra and being a blessing to others.
“It gives me an opportunity to give something back,” he said, with a big smile of contentment.
Gay is certainly not unique, as American society operates on the willing and dedicated volunteers.
Americans serve others by various means such as collecting and delivering food for indigent people or shut-ins, giving the gift of life through blood drives, helping to run a neighborhood soup kitchen or repairing homes following natural disasters.
Volunteering runs the gamut from church groups to lawyers who offer pro bono work. It is the physician who provides charity care to those in desperate situations without the ability to pay.
And then there are Little League dads and moms who contribute their time to help instill values and morals in children as they coach.
Each could be asked the cost involved, and most would respond by saying, “Priceless.”
The Roman philosopher Seneca once wrote, “To repay gratitude is a most praiseworthy act.” However, “it ceases to be praiseworthy if it is made obligatory.”
People volunteer because they want to make a difference in the lives of others. They see a need and fill it. Many times, it carries a heavy cost, but most volunteers are willing to do it for the rewards: the excitement and sense of purpose their work brings.
Following four years of violin lessons, through an instructor at Georgia Southern University, Gay volunteered for the orchestra.
“I’m not perfect or great when I play, but occasionally I’ll hit that note that brings pure joy to my heart and satisfaction in what I’m doing,” he said.
Gay performs twice each Sunday.
“After 10 hours of work at the pharmacy, I lock the doors, grab my violin, and rush over to First Baptist to practice for an hour or two,” he said. “Most of the time, I’m really shot when I get there, but once we begin playing, I’m refreshed all over again. I really cannot see myself doing anything else now.”
About five years ago, Gay said he woke up one morning with an “emptiness” in his chest that had to be addressed. Following several decades of faithful work as a pharmacist, he felt that God was calling him to attain the “highest bar possible.” As a child, he was provided piano lessons by his parents and had always loved music, so he decided to seek out lessons to play the violin, a favorite instrument of his.
Once he felt confident in his playing, he volunteered for the orchestra at his church.
“You know, I had always gone to First Baptist as a regular attendee, but never really got involved in activities other than Scouts or worship services,” Gay said. “I needed to expand my horizons, now in my early 60s, and playing the violin filled that need and has helped me attain that highest bar.
“I just enjoy watching the faces of the people at church and know that we (the orchestra) are giving the congregation a blessing from our efforts,” he added.
Gay also volunteers with the string ensemble at Georgia Southern, thus increasing his hours of sacrifice and service.
The names and faces may change but the untiring work of volunteers enhances the life of every community. They are the unsung, the unpaid and, often, the under-appreciated.
Without their work, life would be less beautiful. These unsung heroes volunteer in area hospices, hospital wards, nursing homes, community theaters and many other venues where help is needed.