Clinical trials help make safe medical breakthroughs. There is risk involved for volunteers. I know. I am one of them.
One Board of Directors I sit on is at a local research university medical center. As a research institution, they do a lot of clinical trials. Where I fit their protocols, I volunteer for them. These things are not risk free. I am placed in the healthy group. I was asked at a monthly Board meeting why at my advanced age I take such risks when I could never possibly benefit from them?
I answered by sharing an ancient legend. The story is of a very elderly man who toiled in the groves picking olives in the hot dry sun. When his much younger colleagues took lunch break, he went to unused parts of the grove, and planted seeds for new olive trees.
His co-workers would have sport with him. They would tease and mock him. After all, at his age he would never live to see the trees grow, develop and bear fruit. It can take a full century for an olive tree to become productive. He was in his eighties.
One day they directly confronted him, and asked why he even bothered to plant something that could never help him?
He responded by pointing out that in his youth, when he was their age, the olives he gathered were planted by people who never saw the fruits of their labor. He was just giving back to the process that sustained him, for future generations.
I told the story, because that is why I place myself at risk. I am old. Near my third career retirement. The medicine I needed in my lifetime went through clinical trials before it could be there for me. I am simply giving back now for people in the future, as people before me took risks for me and those like me.
The best way we have to express our gratitude to what others did for us when they are no longer here is to continue the good things they did for those in the future who can benefit, ever as we are better off for this process.