Volunteering in Your Community

It is good. It is necessary for a healthy community. Someone needs to do it.

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction… (James 1:27)

Some have volunteer opportunities everywhere they turn. Others have limited circles and no known connections. If you want to help others, how do you make it happen?

Know your calling. Why do you want to do anything? What, in a broad sense, are you called to do? Remind yourself of your motivation so that you can serve from the heart and not just off the checklist.

…let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:16)

Know your availability. You can’t give what you don’t have. If you aren’t free 20 hours a week, don’t sign up to work 3 days a week at the neighborhood thrift store. Before you make any decisions about what you will do to offer a cup of cold water to anyone, know when and how much time you can offer.

Know your gifts. What are you good at? If you love nothing more than serving dinner to the entire block, a soup kitchen is probably a good fit. If you are an extrovert and communicate well, leverage those people skills on a one-to-one basis or as a group leader or teacher. If you prefer limited small talk and being outside, check into a list of houses needing yard work or repairs from a local church or agency. Habitat for Humanity is a lot of fun as a group project and serves great needs. I am by no stretch of the imagination a contractor, but I have enjoyed several years of builds with that program.

Know your possibilities. Start asking. Talk to friends. Let people know you are exploring options. Get ideas. Research local agencies. Call places and ask questions about need. Brainstorm. Pull together a list or pool of what might work. Now you have what you need to make a choice.

Enjoy! Put your heart into it and be blessed.

Good Ideas: Hospitality Journal

Do you enjoy pulling together beautiful meals and serving delicious food to friends and family? Would you like to get a little bit better at exercising hospitality?

At a recent conference on hospitality, one of the speakers shared her way of remembering those she fed and what she served. She keeps a journal noting who came to a meal, what the menu was, any special needs, and whether the food was a hit or a bust. It’s a great way to remember all the joys of hospitality past, but it’s also an excellent tool to know who likes what (and who needs to avoid what).

One way that we show love to each other is by noticing and remembering likes and dislikes. If you know your friend doesn’t like pizza at all, you won’t keep suggesting the local pizza place for lunch. You wouldn’t want to bring chicken noodle soup to a sick vegan friend, would you? Better to nix the peanut butter cookies for the family with a nut allergy. These things matter, and any effort we make to consider them for others is part of loving our neighbor.

A simple notebook (or spreadsheet, if you prefer) will allow you to track guests, menus, and preferences. It doesn’t need to be elaborate, just your notes.

Further benefit
If you are getting to know new friends, notes on the conversation will help you connect details with names and faces as you go along. You will more easily remember that John and Jody were the couple that lived in Iceland for a year, for instance. You are collecting memories as you go.