Every high school student that is aspiring to one day attend college understands the importance of community service on his / her resume. Organizations like Key Club and National Honor Society have community service at the core of their missions and provide a variety of events and activities for students to positively impact their school and/or their local community. Having been members of both of these organizations, our older children have been able to participate in ringing bells for the Salvation Army, volunteering for blood drives, teaching younger students local history at the Grignon Mansion and collecting food to feed families that are facing financial challenges. Through these experiences, our children have learned to look beyond themselves and their daily wants and needs and to focus on the needs of others.
Many other religious and service organizations including local church groups, service organizations like Rotary and Lions, and not-for-profits also provide much-needed dollars and resources to struggling populations throughout the country and the world. In addition, the United States is by far the most generous nation in the world, sending billions of dollars to countries and families that have been stricken with drought, natural disasters, war, or disease. Let us stay focused to ensure that these wonderful philanthropic efforts continue and expand over time.
Although much good is being accomplished locally, nationally, and internationally, there is an aspect of ‘serving thy neighbor’ that is being swallowed up by the institutionalization of community service. Specifically, what has been lost in this new idea of group service is the act of being present, one-to-one, to a person in need.
Many of us can remember a neighbor lady bringing over some warm meat loaf or chicken noodle soup when a loved one had passed. Or perhaps a team of family and friends worked together to make meals for a family with young children whose mother went through a difficult delivery and was home with a new baby. Sometimes it was just a telephone call, or an old friend stopping for coffee to ‘see how we were doing’ during a difficult time in our lives.
None of these acts of being present to another were news worthy. Huge amounts of money were not raised through a crowd-funding site; no families were given a new house to live in; the Mayor did not give out any humanitarian awards for these simple deeds; and the Earth was not saved from utter destruction. However, just the same, these acts of loving thy neighbor were, and are, extraordinary. They are so easy to do, but so difficult, somehow, in our mail-a-check-for-poverty society.
A friend of mine once said, “I don’t go to funerals because I don’t like them, and I’d rather celebrate a person while they are alive. Another friend responded, “Funerals are not about you.” Being present to others does require us to think outside of ourselves; however, the encouraging part of these tremendously valuable experiences is that you do not have to worry about what to say or what to wear or what to bring. Generally, if you just show up, the heavy lifting has already been done. Thinking back to the funeral or to that difficult time in our lives, do we even remember what that person said to us when they came to us, or what they were wearing, or what food they brought? Probably not, but we do remember who was there to sit with us, to listen, to be present to us.
Many of us are praying to God for some sort of miracle in our own lives or in the lives of people we love. Do you suppose that you might be God’s answer to some of these prayers?
We may not be able to cure someone of cancer or bring a loved one back to life, but we can do even more wonderous things than these for the hearts of those we touch. If all of us, when we wake up in the morning, would say ‘Yes!’ to God’s question of, “Will you let me answer prayers in you?”, what a different world we would be living in. Maybe cut out the words below from the Servant Song and tape them to your bathroom mirror. Your kids will learn through your example the true meaning of community service.
The Servant Song
We are pilgrims on the journey
We are travelers on the road
We are here to help each other
Walk the mile and bear the load
I will hold the Christ light for you
In the nighttime of your fear
I will hold my hand out to you
Speak the peace you long to hear
I will weep when you are weeping
When you laugh, I’ll laugh with you
I will share your joy and sorrow
Till we’ve seen this journey through
Will you let me be your servant
Let me be as Christ to you
Pray that I might have the grace
To let you be my servant too