Why I Volunteer
There is something about the prospect of volunteering that can be intimidating. It’s a commitment, yes, yet also an infringement. Here I am, whoever and whatever I am, going to you, whoever and whatever you are, and deciding to share. I will share myself, and you, perhaps unaware of the connection that this transaction entails, will receive, willingly or unwillingly. Yet you will also give. And I, if I allow myself, if I can get outside myself and my worries and my weariness or distractions enough and simply be, will let you in. A line will be crossed and our circles will have become like a Venn diagram, our lives overlapping.
We may volunteer to help others, or to support purposes and actions—like setting up on Sunday mornings, or picking up trash in the park, or to bring encouragement to those around us. It is easy to be isolated. Earbuds, the anonymity that living in a city of 8.5 million affords, and the excuse of job demands or MTA delays facilitate this, but we as Christians are called to go out into the world, and this, as a command, requires positive action. I cannot go out into the world while scanning news headlines on my laptop at home.
This is why programs, here in Astoria, such as the Bible Club at the Boys & Girls Variety Club and the food pantry at Hour Children are significant. By volunteering to lead the song at the club’s weekly meeting, perhaps one that I sang years ago in Sunday School, or by guiding the food pantry visitors in the quantities of dried beans that they may take, I am reminded that these faces have souls, and that these souls need Jesus. These are our neighbors, be they active 7-year-old school children or 60-year-old trail-blazers, illiterate or with a master’s degree in engineering, solemn or with hair dyed fluorescent green. I volunteer because God said to help others, and not out of sorrow about the world’s brokenness or the desire to feel useful, though those are also at play. I volunteer because there is little way to understand other people if I do not get outside myself to interact with them and enter their world, and they mine. This is my city, my neighborhood, and there are so many people who need God’s love.
by Magdalena Rahn