My annual ride with the City Council in this year’s Veterans’ Day Parade reminded me of Albany’s reservoir of goodwill for those who serve. While our biggest parade honors veterans, I was also touched by how many people expressed their appreciation to our Council for their current service to the community. We often hear from those who criticize and tend to forget the many people in town who appreciate their community and those who serve it.

There are countless ways that local residents serve others in this area, including activities that range from providing meals to the homeless to donating blood through the Red Cross. Volunteer coaches, mentors, library friends, United Way board members, city and county advisory commission members, church workers, and far too many other volunteer servants make our communities work and grow stronger every day. People in other countries are often shocked at how much work volunteers do in the United States.

I am sure there are many reasons why people are willing to give their time to important causes, but I think the common theme that unites these efforts is the healing power of service. I know I feel better about myself when I’ve done something positive for someone else, and I’ve learned to be appreciative when someone performs service for me. Keeping a positive outlook on life in a world where we are exposed to negative news every day, requires a sense of purpose and, most importantly, hope.

Many veterans risked or gave their lives in the interest of building a better future for their country, and I think it’s easy to forget what we are really celebrating every November 11. The date commemorates the end of “the war to end all wars,” and a return to peace that sadly lasted only 20 years. I would like to believe, however, that the sacrifices of all who have served have helped move us closer to a lasting peace. As difficult as it may be to believe, we are currently living in the most peaceful time in recorded history, despite the various conflicts around the globe.

Riding along Albany’s parade route allowed me to see the results of the sacrifices others have made on my behalf. We live in a place where we have reason to hope that our children will enjoy a decent education, relative security, and the chance for happy and productive lives. I try to frequently remind myself to be grateful for that privilege and to commit to behavior that will pass it on to future generations. Judging by the turnout at the parade and the attitude of those present, it’s nice to know most people around here seem to feel the same way.