Every spring they amaze me—these plants that come up in our garden on their own. They sprout
from seeds left over from last year’s discarded tomatoes, squash or pumpkin, or a missed spud. One spring a nice, straight row of onions pushed through the yet untilled ground. The garden isn’t the only place surprise plants appear. They nudge their way through the hardened soil of my flower pots, too.
These self-sprouting plants are called “volunteers,” and gardeners know they can be hardier and produce better crops than plants intentionally seeded and cultivated.
I’d always thought of volunteers as people who donate their time to a cause they believe in, folks who step to the plate and fill a need and don’t ask for anything in return.
I thought of volunteers last Sunday on the way to church. Every week I’d bemoan the litter alongside the road, and grumble about the thoughtless people who tossed their garbage out the window. I was often tempted to take a day and pick up the trash myself. But I never did.
Then last Sunday bags filled with litter lined the road, thanks to the volunteers who adopted this section of highway to keep it clean. I felt ashamed. Why don’t I join a group? I chided myself. Or grab a trash bag and a pair of disposable gloves, pick a section of road, and just go do it?
It reminded me of the time my former pastor happened upon a man cleaning up a local walking trail on his own. When my pastor commended him for his unselfish spirit, the man said, “Thanks, but I sure could use some help!” So my pastor organized a group from our church and set up a couple of work days to maintain the trail.
Volunteers. I think of the folks who donate their time to hospitals, personal care homes, local historical societies and libraries . . . (I’m sure you can think of many more.)
I think of the local fire companies and the men and women who volunteer their time and energy to keep them running. They not only drop what they’re doing at any time of the day or night to fight a fire or respond to an accident, but they also must maintain and update equipment and raise funds. I am in awe of the dedication and commitment of these courageous men and women.
Volunteers spend their time and talents to make a difference in the community, to better the world around them, without expecting anything in return.
“We seem to think our reward is fame or money,” says a quotation on my bulletin board. “But the true reward is the one you feel inside when somebody touches your heart.”
It’s time for me to put aside the excuses and find some place to volunteer. I don’t have to do it all, just pick one tiny corner of the world where my efforts, even an hour a week, can make someone else’s life a little bit better.
Like Holocaust survivor and author Corrie ten Boom once said, “The measure of a life, after all, is not its duration, but its donation.”
Remind me, Lord, when I serve others, I serve You. Amen.
Special-Tea: Read Matthew 25:34–40