“Volunteer” Shouldn’t be a Dirty Word

Sometimes people give me headaches.

Growing up, I was taught that it is better to give than to receive; that we should always, without question help those in need, and to love my neighbor as myself. It is without thinking that I donate time, items, and of myself to those in need.

It blows my mind that there are people who could think that this isn’t a good idea. I’m sorry to say that on more than one occasion, I have said, “I am a volunteer…” and have been greeted with a look of discernment, scrunching up their nose, and the thoughtless comment, “Why would you do that?”

Really, people? Since when has being generous been a sin? It exasperates me every single time I am faced with this reaction. Today it touched a nerve.

I donate blood every 56 days. I’ve donated my own hair to Locks of Love. I’m on the donor list at the Komen Breast Tissue Bank, waiting for an appointment. I’ve given my own beloved books to the local library for others’ enjoyment. I’ve volunteered with several hospitals for the past decade. I regularly give clothes and other items to GoodWill. I’ve shared my story of the profound effect Blessings Bags have had on me, indeed feeling more blessed because I gave, not because I received. Isn’t that the whole point?

I currently have one hospice patient. My patient has done more for me and my soul than I could ever express with mere words. My work with hospice has truly molded my heart and spirit into a different person over the past four years, which is something worth far more than monetary value.

While I used to be of the frame of mind that said, Why would we go to the need of another country when we have our own people in need in our own backyard? Now I see things a bit differently. Our poorest people here are still much better off than those in developing, third-world countries. Now I think, The real goal is to do BOTH–help our own and those outside.  I cannot wait to go on a missions trip and help those in need that are outside of my country’s borders.

So why on Earth do we act like doing something out of kindness without getting paid, or something in return, is something to avoid?

This bothers me beyond words. Disappoints is probably the better description.

This world vehemently disappoints me, pretty much on a regular basis.

A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle.

As Christians, we are called to give. But we are not called only to give what we are comfortable with losing, but we are called to give until it hurts. To see past the shallow ways of the world and to see what real needs are, and to use our God-given talents to fill those needs.

Have you ever wondered why some people are blessed with certain talents and others are not? I wonder if it’s because we are meant to use those talents to fill a void someone else has, and to actively seek out those people.

It thrills me to see people work toward the better good of all people. We can all do something, even if we are poor or weak or feel untalented. I love seeing volunteer gigs with students on campus. Seeing how people from all over the country have helped out my hometown and the surrounding towns who were hit with the tornado early in March, warms my heart. A friend of mine is considering joining the Peace Corps, and I couldn’t be more proud to know someone courageous enough to drop everything and leave behind a home of comfort in order to do something bigger than oneself. I myself would love such an opportunity, but I know I can impact the world in such a way as to not harm my husband and our new family; to each his own, and in his own way. We are each capable of changing the world for the better, and we can (and I would argue, should) no matter what our particular situation.

I’m a big fan of Audrey Hepburn; today I saw an old UNICEF image of her work in Africa. Now I’m an even bigger fan. If you come from a privileged background, there’s no reason you can’t do something. And “privileged” does not mean rich, or wealthy, in monetary terms. “For everyone to whom much is given, of him shall much be required.” Luke 12:48

We need more people like that. On a regular basis. Our society needs a shift in its mindframe, to leave behind the me me me mentality that I absolutely abhor and loathe to no end.

I don’t know if I’ll ever see that shift in my lifetime, but you better believe I’m going to do everything in my power to promote volunteerism in my community and involve my future children. As far as I can tell, we are a society based on being mean, hateful, and greedy… and I don’t want any part of continuing that trend.

Have you ever listened to a song countless times, and then once you actually listen to the words, and they blow your mind?

For me, these lyrics hold tremendous meaning: “Check your pulse/It’s proof that you’re not listening to/The call your life’s been issuing you.” ~John Mayer

I know of at least three friends, my age or a little  younger, that have been on missions trips to Haiti, Honduras, and Nicaragua in the past three years. It makes me so happy to know that the thought of helping those in need is not dead to my generation. I can’t wait to go on my first missions trip, which will hopefully be the first of numerous. These ladies (I just noticed that all of them are women) are an inspiration. The last two in-services I attended for hospice, I couldn’t help but notice that I was one of maybe two people out of 30+ that was under 30 years of age. Quite sad.

Capitalism may be king, but volunteerism is not dead. The most precious thing you can give someone is your time; we each have a set amount, and the clock is ticking.

“The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no greater commandment than these.” Mark 12:31


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