About 70 Greeters attended an Annual Meeting at One Centre Street. We had no idea what a rousing good time we were in for.
Big Apple Greeter’s Executive Director Alicia Pierro was thrilled to introduce Greeter Lester Barnett.
Lester, she explained, is a Renaissance man. He’s a graduate of Cooper Union, an artist who worked with Andy Warhol and Norman Rockwell, a lover of (and expert in) all things cultural: art, architecture, history, and happily, Big Apple Greeter. He has been a Greeter for over sixteen years, logging in over 200 Greets.
Lester treated us to a beautiful slide show about The Proven Health Benefits of Volunteerism. His lively brain and joyful spirit emerged, as he first talked about who we Greeters are, especially in the minds of visitors.
We are New Yorkers, a different kind of animal. We’re Babe Ruth, Woody Allen and Jackie Kennedy. We’re nurturing, playful, curious and comfortable as an old shoe. We’re theatrical storytellers and excellent listeners. Lester’s favorite definition came from Trip Advisor: “A Greeter is not a professional tour guide; a Greeter is a new friend.”
Yes, we give much to our visitors, but what Greeting does for us is a story in itself. Greeting makes us smarter, healthier and happier. After doing thorough research about volunteering from icons such as Johns Hopkins and Harvard universities, Lester told us why.
Greeting makes us smarter because being with visitors is a challenge. We are constantly learning, planning, organizing and focusing on details, which makes our brains work harder. We have to be creative when the unexpected happens – because it always does!
Greeting makes us healthier. Volunteers in general have lower blood pressure than other people. They also have less heart disease, dementia, and fewer strokes – and they live longer!
Greeting makes us happier. It’s fun being with visitors! We share stories, lunches, photos, and we often become life-long friends. This means less isolation and more being out in the world. Another reason we’re happy? When we’re with visitors, we don’t have a BOSS!
Lester summed up his talk with the perfect tag line: Doing Good for the World Does Us a World of Good.