We homeschoolers usually keep busy, but most of us have plenty of time to dedicate to worthwhile activities (all that time public-schoolers spend waiting for the bus, changing classes, eating lunch, waiting for the bus again—we actually get to spend it doing something meaningful!). If you're a Christian homeschooler, that could mean that you spend a lot of time volunteering. I haven't done too much “official” volunteering in my life, but there are several activities I've participated in that have made a big difference—not only in other peoples' lives, but in my life as well.
Here are five lessons I've learned from my volunteering experiences:
- The little things are powerful. "Volunteering” probably brings to mind images of Mother Theresa in the gutters or firefighters saving lives, but the truth is that you can help others in tiny ways as well as big ones. Remember “the widow’s mite.” One small thing I do regularly is serve drinks at our church's potluck lunch. People come through the line with plates heaped high with delicious food, and they would have to do some fancy juggling to pour themselves water or iced tea, holding up the line. So I station myself at the drink counter and pour everyone's drink of choice (trying to memorize everyone’s preference is a challenge!). It's not a big job, but people are grateful.
- Remember who you're doing it for. My friends and I love to sing, and for several years we’ve had a tradition of singing Christmas carols at nursing homes. Last year I really thought it was going to be a disaster. Our two sopranos were sick, and they happened to be the ones who knew the harmony to all our pieces. It seemed impossible to sing anything but our most basic songs, and I actually got into quite a huff. I was miserable until someone reminded me, "Remember who we are doing this for." That should have snapped me out of it, but it really took quite a while to convince myself that it didn't matter how badly we sounded or how many friends would be missing out. The whole point was to encourage and gladden the hearts of the sick and elderly. It wasn't about me, it was about glorifying Christ through my service. And you know what? That was an amazing day.
- There is power in numbers. It can be easy for us volunteer-minded people to try going it alone. Sometimes I feel that no one can do a job as well as I can, so I try to do everything myself. But that's just exhausting, and it isn't at all the best way to serve the Lord. I learned a bit about the power of numbers while organizing our town's Christmas program a couple of years ago. It was a big task that felt overwhelming, but so many people pitched in—I made new friends, utilized other peoples' gifts and suggestions, and the program was infinitely better than if I'd tried to do it all by myself.
- Fear can be overcome. Public speaking comes naturally to me, and I genuinely enjoy it, but that doesn't mean that I don't get the shakes before making a presentation for Compassion International. This weekend I am supposed to speak to a group of about 40 strangers at a local church and tell them about Compassion’s work in releasing children from poverty in Jesus' name, and how they can be a part of it. I worry about how well I'm preparing and if I'll be able to do everything correctly, but I also know that Philippians 4:13 is true. This is God's deal, not mine. If the Holy Spirit doesn't speak through me, then I'm not going to be effective anyway. I just have to do my best and leave the result up to the Lord.
- Sacrifice leads to reward. Once every couple of weeks I will drive to a nearby nursing home and chat with an elderly friend of mine for an hour or more, updating her on what is going on recent events, swapping stories, and generally trying to brighten her day. It's enjoyable, but sometimes I find it hard to get up out of my comfortable chair and go visit her. Doing it regularly, however, has done wonders for my self-discipline, and has rewarded me at least as much as it has helped her. Sometimes she encourages me, sometimes I encourage her, sometimes we laugh together or share a meal. Whatever we do, I usually go away feeling happier and closer to the Lord.
Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure—pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return.
- Luke 6:38