One year, Hubby and I volunteered to help serve a Thanksgiving meal for the homeless. We arrived at 7am and had such a great time working with the group to set up tables and chairs that we stayed on an extra hour or so just enjoying the camaraderie. This being the case, we were eager to repeat our experience and the following year, I called the director who organized the whole affair. Granted, I was calling a little past the deadline to sign up, but figured they could probably still use the help. I was wrong. When I asked to be added to the list, the director, evidently upset by the ‘once a year’ volunteers, let me know they were full up, why didn’t I come at some other weekend when I could be useful?
At the time, I was shocked and distraught by the director’s reaction to me. Wasn’t I trying to help? Wasn’t that worth something? So what if I didn’t do any volunteering the rest of the year? I was making an effort NOW.
The truth is, both sides of this issue are correct. For many people, juggling both family and jobs, it can be impossible to do much more than carve out one or two days a year to help others. Which Is one reason why I love the push this last decade to make MLK day a ‘day on, not a day off.’ People use their extra vacation day as a time to honor Martin Luther King Jr. for his service to this country by serving others in their community. Sometimes it even helps move people into a more regular habit of volunteering.
Yesterday, in the cold and the rain, we dragged our tired little family to the local elementary school where we pulled weeds, spread out mulch, raked the lawn, picked up garbage and generally helped to ‘beautify’ the school grounds. I was so proud of Ellwood who jumped in trying to show just how strong he was by pushing wheelbarrows full of mulch around, shoveling said mulch into the wheelbarrow and generally being a joy to work with. (Something he isn’t normally at home!)
It might very well seem that lately I’m on a ‘write about volunteering’ kick. I think it might be because I am looking at getting a job which would change my scheduled volunteer activities. But it’s also the thought that we will often only volunteer on ‘special’ days (much as Hubby and I did at first) and think our token outreach enough. In actuality, it’s a beginning, not an end itself.
My wish for all of you is that you had a wonderful day yesterday, no matter what you did. If you had the day off, I hope you had fun, either sleeping in, reading, watching TV, spending time with family or volunteering. If you had to work, I hope your interactions with fellow employees and employers were good ones, leaving you feeling useful, needed and most importantly- appreciated.
To all that you do, everyday, I salute you. You are appreciated.
Everybody can be great. Because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve…. You don’t have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love. ~Martin Luther King, Jr.