Why do we volunteer? What is it about volunteering that keeps us coming back for more? Why do people give up their most valuable resource (time) without expecting anything in return?
I would like to try and answer these questions from my own life’s experience. Volunteering is a two-sided coin: those that do the volunteering and those that reap the benefits of the time given by volunteers. I have had the privilege of being on both sides of this coin. Most recently, my new role as the Volunteer Director at Life Services allows me to of help guide new volunteers to find their fit in this ministry and start connecting with clients.
I Needed Help
A couple of years ago I was coming out of a very dark time in my life. As I started my life-long recovery journey at Anna Ogden Hall, I had to take responsibility for my mistakes and take a look at the damage I had caused to those I love the most. As you can imagine, shame and regret rolled over me like a wave, almost taking me under with their weight. It was a load too heavy to carry on my own, almost guaranteed to crush.
It was then that I experienced the body of Christ surrounding me, shields held up against the arrows of shame and regret. When I didn’t think I could walk through another day, someone was there to walked through it with me. In times I couldn’t see hope, someone was there to see it for me. When I couldn’t see my worth, others did. Looking back, I see Jesus so clearly in those mentors, facilitators, discipleship teachers, childcare workers, donors and yes, volunteers.
Looking back, I Saw A Bigger Picture
Many of these volunteers were behind the scenes and although I didn’t always interact with them, they were there making a difference. I saw Jesus in all of them as they stepped into my trial with me, shoulder to shoulder, carrying some of the load and making my burden light. This is a real life example of Matthew 11:30. Jesus says “For my yolk is easy and my burden is light.” This is the definition of being the hands and feet of Jesus. When those around us are struggling, when they are carrying loads too big to bare, we stand with them, pointing them to Jesus. Before I really got to know Jesus personally, he reached me through believers in the faith. He used these amazing volunteers that knew him. Before I knew of Jesus’s love, he loved me through volunteers.
Inspired by those that had once helped me, my journey brought me to Life Services as a volunteer advocate. It was here that I started to experience the other side of the coin. I felt the joy that comes from investing in people and making new relationships. As I sat in appointments, I could see my own face in the face of clients. Listening to their stories reminded me of my own. I could see in them the need to be heard.
Here’s my ‘Why’ to Volunteering
These gals are desperate to know that they are not alone in their current crisis. We as volunteers get to help them carry their burdens. I’ve seen walls come down as clients felt valued and listened to and loved! I’ve seen hope start to flicker as we talk about resources and show them what we have available. I finally realized why all those volunteers had helped me though my hardship. The revitalization that comes from helping others, without expecting anything in return, is purely life giving.
So, why do we volunteer our time? It’s simple. Because Jesus asked us to love others. Freely giving of our time and resources is one way to show love. Here at Life Services, volunteering is how we show Jesus to those that may or may not know him. “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:35 We are made for relationship, every single one of us. What a gift it is, the ability to love and be loved.