Almost three years ago this spring, our pastor laid a large wooden cross along the altar of our church. It was during Lent and he wanted to draw our attention to the burdens we carry. Like Jesus, who shed the cross and rose from the dead; what do we carry around that needs to be discarded? We were each given a piece of paper, a nail and invited to come up and hammer our notes to the cross. On my note, I wrote I wanted to volunteer. I had not given time to any causes or lent support to any organization, it was an area of my life that I felt I needed to improve on. I wanted to discard my fear of service. My wish was to seek volunteer opportunities where I could be of assistance, not what I wanted to do, but where God led me. I asked that these be revealed to me.
Since that time, I have been asked to serve on the church’s board of trustees; there’s great satisfaction in helping steer an organization into the future. I am also part of the membership committee helping to grow the church, organize fun events and build awareness in the community. I was asked to join last year. I just started volunteering a few months ago with the vegan mentoring program at an animal sanctuary, and lastly, I joined an outreach program about six months ago, to serve those in our region, who are addicted to opioids.
Volunteering is hard work. I started out slowly making sure I could commit, and the projects were a good fit for me. I want to make sure good energy was going into what I was embarking on, not just a sense of obligation. I was cautious. If I wasn’t in love with the cause, I know my staying power would fizzle. Now that I am past that initial phase of getting comfortable with giving my time away, it’s become a very satisfying outlet. I’m not always sure I am making a difference in the moment, but as time passes, I realize how important a role, each of us plays.
What I have learned about volunteer work, is it’s obviously selfless and hard. This is something I needed to address in my life, I really didn’t do much for others. Yes, I participated in little things here and there, but I never committed long-term to any volunteer projects. This was my burden; wanting to help, but not really knowing how to participate. I have been in the business world for a long time and volunteering doesn’t share the same attributes. Going from being visible, needing to be recognized for my efforts in business, to being a humble servant, and invisible, was a struggle at first. I had to keep repeating in my mind, It’s not about me!
I am aware that volunteering is not about doing something to be recognized. That is pride, and volunteering is not about our egos. It’s about service, helping others and getting something done. If I need a pat on the back, I really need to address that with myself, because this is not the place to go to fill that need. I am there to help without recognition. I volunteer because it’s good for my soul to help others and it’s something I struggle with, so I want to overcome that. Not to mention it is a recurring theme in the bible, “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:4.) In other words, my interests should be focused on the needs of others, I cannot turn a blind eye or pretend anymore, that there are people and organizations that can benefit from my support.
If you feel you would like to step out and volunteer your time, please do it. A few hours a month or week, is desperately appreciated. Start slow or jump right in. The needs are endless and when I made myself available, the right situations that I am a good match for, came my way.