A few nights ago, I was blessed with the opportunity to meet a man who must absolutely wear his life out in service to others. I was sitting at a high school football game selling cookies to raise money for the marching band, and the other parent I was working with said hello to this particular individual, who was at the game volunteering with the police department as a security presence for these kinds of community events. Mr. B, as I’ll refer to him, stayed to talk a while and spoke of the things he’s been doing; he retired from being an elementary-school teacher a few years ago. In addition to helping out with the police, he and another man help repair bicycles for the homeless once a week; he has spent a month in China during the summer of each of the past few years teaching practical English to young people; he regularly does mission trips with his church to Central America with his wife; he helps in other ways to aid the poor and homeless. I was absolutely blown away by his dedication to doing good. In addition to that, Mr. B’s late brother’s wife runs a foundation dedicated to raising awareness about traumatic brain injuries, and he’s involved in that in some way too.
In this time when we are at odds politically about how much we feel government should be involved in people’s lives, in providing for very basic needs (food, shelter) and slightly-less-basic needs (like health care and education), it still strikes me how very important it is for all of us to give of ourselves to our communities and the world at large. If every person volunteered their time just a little every week, according as their schedules and particular obligations allowed, think about what good would happen. Without any government outlays of tax dollars or resources, so many people would be helped. Even those who are the ones more “in need” can often do something to give back, even if it’s just making a few phone calls or coordinating others’ efforts.
Very likely, we would have far less need of government to take care of so many people. And think about the benefits to each person who is volunteering: an improved work ethic for themselves and those they care for; more compassion and empathy for those who are in more need or experience different kinds of struggles; an appreciation for how we are all connected and how what each of us does affects so many others.
I have written about how so often when I see so much need that I wish I could do more, but I have to remind myself that just helping one person (throwing back that one starfish…) is something. But if each of us did a little more, … wow. So many starfish would be back in the sea, alive and well and thriving.
At this season when we start thinking about giving thanks and giving gifts, perhaps one great gift we could give is to find a little something extra we can do for our fellow men, right in our own communities, and then sustain it past this season, right into the coming year and years. Our efforts, even if they’re small, do make a difference.