Volunteering … better together – Mary-Anne Rulfs
It’s national volunteers’ week as I write. This year’s theme is better together.
And isn’t that the truth?
Popular sayings that encapsulate the idea that the whole is more than the sum of the parts comes to mind.
I came across another quote yesterday – a poignant reminder of the way that we can shape the kind of community in which we live by our collective contribution to it.
In a world where ‘entitlement’ is the starting point for many people as they consider how they would like to shape community, volunteering – selflessly giving one’s time and energy for the benefit of the whole – offers a wonderfully rich and life-giving alternative. Where entitlement focusses on the individual, volunteering reaches out to the ‘one anothers’ Jesus invites us to love, and in doing so, we find joy!
Volunteering is the ultimate exercise in democracy. You vote in elections intermittently; when you volunteer, you vote every day about the kind of community you want to live in.
The mission of our parish is fulfilled in large part by the time that people generously volunteer. Every day volunteers help to create a caring, Christ-like community that is known for its relationships through serving in many and varied ways:
- Gardens and grounds
- Sound and camera
- Trinity Family Support Network activities like playgroup
- Parish council
- Small group leaders
- Op shops
- Worship services and liturgy
- Office assistance
- Financial responsibilities
- Governance in the wider church and community
- Sacristy tasks
- Flower arranging
- Pastoral care
- Kids ministry
- Youth ministry
- Men’s breakfasts and women’s events
- Mission activities
- Providing frozen meals …
- Along with various other avenues of serving.
Research in recent decades has overwhelmingly concluded that the wellbeing benefits from giving one’s time and effort for the benefit of others without any expectation of remuneration are significant.
So what happens when we reach a stage in our lives when we no longer have capacity for volunteering in the ways we’ve enjoyed in the past? This can be difficult and confronting when our time, health or other circumstances limit our capacity to volunteer. It can be difficult to pass the baton to others and rest in the knowledge we’ve done what we can.
Does it help to know that the intrinsic value of our lives is not, after all, what we’ve done? Rather, it’s how we’ve loved. And we can all continue to love through words of encouragement, showing an interest in spheres of activity we’re no longer able to actively participate in and to pray.
And always be open for surprises! At every age and stage unexpected opportunities can crop up.
Speaking with a playgroup volunteer this week, I learnt that she had to stop her work in out-of-school-hours care because of health challenges. She went to Volunteering Australia and saw that our kids op shop was looking for helpers. That ad jumped out at her!
This lady began volunteering in the op shop and absolutely loves the friendliness, the care for families who frequent the shop and the wider networking and outreach into the community that are part of the kids’ op shop weekly rhythm. She now volunteers at playgroup as well and says these activities are the high points of her week.
Thank you to all our volunteers who faithfully share God’s love in countless ways that represent your vote about the kind of community you want to live in – a community known for relationships with God, one another and the deepest part of ourselves.