Through research on the topic of volunteer recruitment and through conversations with friends I've come to the conclusion that we may have forgotten the meaning in volunteering. Also, I think we've mislabeled the ordinary, simple acts often needed in volunteer positions as beneath us in our pursuit to "make a difference".
It's easy to live our lives disconnected from each other in this day and age by keeping our connections limited to the realm of status updates, texts, and tweets. This type of connection while not all bad keeps, us at arm’s length from others. It doesn't help us connect with our communities.
Volunteering in our communities however, puts us in direct connection with others allowing us to share their joys, hurts, victories, and pain making us stronger communities.
I found an article written for the American Red Cross. You can read the full article here: http://www.redcross.int/EN/mag/magazine399/31999_8.asp
In it the author sums up for me the incredible value in volunteering.
"The value of volunteers is not simply that they deliver services that would otherwise be too expensive to provide. Volunteering is in itself a social, communal act; one that encourages people to be actively involved in working with, understanding and supporting fellow human beings.
Volunteering strengthens community links, encourages participation and promotes an awareness that quality of life can be affected and improved by the acts of each individual."
I love that. I really like the line in particular that states that "volunteering is a communal act that actively involves people in understanding and supporting fellow human beings."
That's beautiful! It's also in line with what Jesus taught. Jesus demonstrated time and again while on this earth that a full life involves loving God and loving and serving others, bringing light into dark places.
Volunteering is not just a connection to another person outside of our normal circle of friends and family, but it is connection to Christ himself.
When you participate in something that is bringing about change, healing, or betterment to the community and it's people then you are part of what Jesus is interested in.
Finally, I want to point out that it doesn't matter if we volunteer by working one on one with another person or participate in behind the scenes work. Everything matters, even the small things. Mother Teresa would say, "do small things with great love."
I was talking with a friend a few weeks ago and he commented that the couple times he had come to volunteer at The Refuge, there "wasn't anything for him to do, but sit and visit with the guests."
Now he didn't mind doing that, but it made me think.
Do our volunteers understand the significance of even small acts of service?
We don't always get to be part of the action on front lines. Some don't want to be a part of that anyways.
The point is that each act matters.
Making better communities, shining light in dark places, coming alongside someone in need, most often takes ordinary acts. Acts that sometimes need to be repeated often and maybe even for long periods of time.
We all want to make a difference. We all want to make our time count. Consider your community around you and what the needs are and get yourself connected.
Do something small. Do something a little bigger.
Do something grand.
Just do something to participate in loving people like Jesus asked us to do.