Continuing with our Serving Sites blog series, here’s what ForColumbia director Shelly Mayer has to say whenever anyone asks her to provide one good reason to participate.
I won’t just give you one reason, I’ll give you five.
After six years of working with dozens of committed volunteers to organize a citywide Day of Service, I can rattle off the reasons why everyone benefits from ForColumbia. On any given day, I might emphasize one reason more than another. However, it’s these five that tend to crop up in conversations all the time in the days and weeks before and after the event.
1. We all need help at some point in our lives.
If you haven’t been through a season of life where you have needed help, trust me…you will need help one day. Time and experience have taught me that a serious life change can upend a season of peace and spiral you into a season of need. I’m actually living through a season of need right now, when the help of friends is keeping my family well cared for as we face a deep loss.
As I’ve met with people who are going through tough times, one thing I’ve noticed is that most of them were actually doing pretty well at one point. Their current condition of need came about because of an unexpected death, job loss, or another family emergency. And that one single misfortune began a cascade of challenges.
I will never forget one woman we helped one year telling me, tearfully, “I never thought I’d be in this position. I had a great job and I lived an independent life…and now I can’t even clean up my bedroom.”
We may not think much about it as we go through our days. However, the hard truth is that we are all living lives that could be radically changed for the worse in an instant.
I’m not sure that we take that reality deep into our hearts.
We drive through neighborhoods on our way elsewhere, scarcely taking note of the needs around us. I do it, you do it, we all do it. ForColumbia reminds me that the needs in our community are immense and that while I can help today, that might not always be the case. This reality motivates me to want to help while I can.
2. When we volunteer, we are helped.
Yes, it’s become something of a cliche to say that “the giver gets more than the recipient” in terms of greater happiness, unplanned blessings, and settled joy. However, I think many of us may not even realize that this sentiment originated with Jesus (Acts 20:32-35).
There’s something mysterious about the ways by which God blesses us when we give selflessly. I can’t fully explain it, but I can say that I know it’s true. I’ve felt it over and over, gratitude overflowing in my life in ways I didn’t anticipate as I give my time and energy to others. That’s a good reason I’ve personally experienced over and over again.
So here’s a humble, gentle challenge for you to consider.
If you’ve never once participated in ForColumbia, give it a shot this year. Sign up for a four-hour shift, morning or afternoon. You might even keep notes of your experience on your phone. I’d love for you to share those thoughts with me. If after serving you feel as though it was a waste of time, I’d love to hear more about your experience.
3. The obvious good reason is that our efforts helps others.
Of course, it’s obvious that ForColumbia provides tangible assistance to others. After all, the event ends and we can look around and see walls painted, wheelchair ramps built, roofs mended, trash collected, brush cleared, and so forth. There’s a real sense of satisfaction that comes with stepping back to admire a job well done!
However, all this work is temporal. The weeds will come back. The passage of time will add scuff marks to that shiny new paint job.
There’s a more powerful help being offered, though, than a clean yard.
I would say that one of the strongest ways we help others is by demonstrating to them that people really do care about them. They are valuable. They matter. Practical outcomes are visible to the naked eye, but the most important benefits take place at the level of relationship.
I’ve lost count of the number of new friendships that have taken hold. A new coat of paint is helpful, but a new friend is invaluable.
4. The less-obvious good reason is that our city flourishes.
When we move outside our comfort zone to serve others, a watching world takes notice.
We live in a media-saturated world where we are regularly exposed to images of tremendous suffering worldwide and division among people. The net effect of the bombardment of bad news is that our hearts can shrink and become callous. We can easily fall into thinking primarily about ourselves, convincing ourselves that serving our city is someone else’s job.
The call on Christians is to seek the good of the city where God has placed us (Jeremiah 29:7). We may disagree about a lot of details, but ultimately we are still called to serve despite our differences. Daniel served a pagan king. He did so with great distinction, so much so that his enemies were unable to find fault with him other than his worship of the one true God (Daniel 6:5).
5. It’s fun!
No explanation needed here! Fun is its own good reason.
Trust me, you’ll very likely be dog-tired at the end of the day. However, you’ll have had fun along the way. And you’ll have a super-cool T-shirt as a reminder of your experience. Join us on Saturday, April 30, to live out God’s calling on our lives as those He has called to serve others.