Minister's Corner: Volunteer

Chris Dodson
Wesley United Methodist Church

On the way back to New York as I was sitting in the Phoenix airport, they announced that the flight to Vegas was full. The airline was looking for volunteers to give up their seats. In exchange, they'd give you a $100 voucher for your next flight and a first class seat in the plane leaving an hour later. About eight people ran up to the counter to take advantage of the offer. About 15 seconds later all eight of those people sat down grumpily as the lady behind the ticket counter said, "If there is anyone else OTHER than the flight crew who'd like to volunteer, please step forward..."

So let me just ask the question: When is the last time you volunteered for something? Recently I volunteered at one of our local elementary schools during an art project. The artist was having the classes learn how to do acrylic pour painting. The short, non artisty description of this is you give the kids a bunch of different paint colors they pour into a cup. After some painting prep work on the canvas, they turn the cup over and let all the paint from their cups pour all over the canvas. They then move the canvas around to spread out the paint. Did I say this was at an elementary school…and that I volunteered to help?

There’s something about kids, and paint, and pour that had me wondering whether I should volunteer. I already had a busy schedule. I didn’t want paint covering every inch of my body. Being around the high energy of kids all day is terrifying and why I think all teachers should be up for saint hood or some national award. I did not feel qualified.

So, why did I say yes? I said yes because I did have the time and I did want to help. I had reasons not to, but let’s call them what they were…excuses. I knew from volunteering places in the past that I always get more out of the experience of volunteering that anything else I could have planned for myself to do that day. The risk: paint on my shirt and a messy classroom. The reward: Seeing kids faces light up with creativity. Kids being proud of their artistic creations. I got to build relationship with some amazing teachers I might have never met. I was able to hang out with a cool artist and her husband and share life, and art together. The list of rewards can go on and on. It made volunteering worth every moment.

In Provers 3: 27-28 it says “Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it. Do not say to your neighbor, ‘Go, and come again, tomorrow I will give it’ -when you have it with you.”

These verses remind me of a few things. First, there are many times I can do good, like volunteering and I have the power and ability to do it, but I come up with excuses to not do it. Like the neighbor in the scripture, how many times do we say “I’d love to do that…next time.”

I wonder what our schools, or community agencies, our non profits, our cities would look like if we just believed we had the power and the ability to volunteer and get involved. What if we didn’t put our “yes” off until tomorrow.

A retired man who volunteers to entertain patients in nursing homes and hospitals went to one local hospital in Brooklyn and took his portable keyboard along. He told some jokes and sang some funny songs at patients` bedsides. When he finished he said, in farewell, "I hope you get better." One elderly gentleman replied, "I hope you get better, too."

May we all “get better” and doing good, getting involved, and volunteering, knowing that when we say yes, we make the world around us a little better, and it just might impact our own lives as well.