Picture a crying child being comforted with a teddy bear, food, a bath and clean clothes. After the teddy bear, something to eat first – almost always a bite to eat first or juice to drink – unless he is too terrified to eat or needs immediate medical attention after rescue from danger. (Or the exception might be a rank smell indicating he or she needs to be washed off and rediapered.)
Then, with maybe cookies and milk in his stomach, the child can climb into a safe, warm bath or a welcoming shower, followed by clean clothing and something more substantial to eat. Picture the child’s brothers and sisters receiving the same kindness.
This is what volunteers often do, whether formally or informally. And the parents of the children? They may be hungry and exhausted, too, if they can be located. If the parents or caregivers aren’t suspected as abusers, they can also be included, and without listening to a long sermon from us first!
Once the adults’ stomachs are full, then we can start teaching them how to provide for themselves, how to fish, as it were, so they eat for a lifetime. Some people don’t always see the need to help themselves or can’t, so if they “eat and run,” just send blessings after them and go on to the next hurting soul. A man with an empty stomach and eyes glazed over from hunger really doesn’t care about any message from us, whatever it is, and he isn’t listening. All he’s thinking is, “Oh, please! Cut the preaching. Are you going to give me a sandwich or not? Please!” When his blood sugar levels start to return to normal, then we might be able to ask him about housing, job training, or whatever else is on our agenda.
Contributions of Volunteers
Volunteers are the lifeblood of any community and every nation, as anyone who has ever worked with such a group knows. Their contributions in any emergency, or at hospice, at animal shelters and homeless shelters, senior centers, or finding our precious missing children, are priceless! And there are many other opportunities to help. Selfless individuals have knitted or crocheted beanies for preemies or blankets for older newborns. The list is very long.
Volunteers do appreciate a few words of recognition and gratitude, instead of being taken for granted when they show up. The work is hard, emotional, even frustrating at times, and volunteers are not easy to herd. Most of them don’t do it for the praise or even knowing they will receive blessings from Above. And yet, they are human beings with the same needs as the rest of us.
Occasionally, there will be a conscript whose cranky attitude is based on the fact a pushy spouse roped him into doing something he either can’t do or doesn’t want to do. His help is still valued, as was the limited assistance from the volunteer who once told me, “We don’t have to be here, you know. We’re volunteers.” With such a crappy attitude, I would have been perfectly happy if she’d just turned around and gone home. But I put her to work at something simple, even though she spent most of her time berating another volunteer who had come in with her.
As theologian, physician and medical missionary Albert Schweitzer said:
“Wherever you turn, you can find someone who needs you. Even if it is a little thing, do something for which there is no pay but the privilege of doing it. Remember, you don’t live in a world all of your own.”
God bless our volunteers! The wheels of this country and the world would come to a stop without them. Never do we want a frightened child or an elderly citizen to think no one is coming to rescue them. There is always an angel with a list who is trying to find you, too. Let’s do what we can to help. There is a new website being rolled out across the nation listing many opportunities to do so. It is called JustServe.org