Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Unto US a child is born

There's a virtual baby shower going on, and I'm thrilled that I won't have to clip any clothespins on my clothes and refrain from saying the word "baby."

A year ago Jen and Mad had a virtual wedding and created the Just Posts- and now each month they publish a list of posts that deal with social justice issues (open to anyone - just send in a link to a post you wrote or a post you read, and it'll be included!). Being gals of the new millennium they have a rather open marriage, and opened it up to become a more international affair, and Hel and Susanne jumped into what HAS to be the California King bed of this marriage.

And in honor of their first anniversary they are having a baby! Instead of being just WORDS about justice, they are moving into ACTION, and asking that we gift their active baby with some active gifts of our own.

whew. That's a lot of introduction.

Anyhow... what they are looking for is a movement of volunteerism - that we of the blogosphere be inspired by the voices around us calling out for justice and action and, well, ACT.

So I got to thinking about what I could offer up in the way of volunteerism. I felt like I didn't volunteer very much.

But then I realized I volunteer like crazy! I do a LOT of volunteer things through my church: I lead the Sunday School opening (songs! where we jump around and do hand motions!) each Sunday, I sing in the praise band, I serve on the worship planning committee, I organize dramas for worship (and am launching a more organized group for this in February), I head up the study portion of my bi-weekly small group, and for the third year in a row I am heading up the Vacation Bible School (which is no small task!) These are just my regular commitments... I also do occasional things like helping with funerals, taking food to shut-ins, collecting donations for various things, decorating for Christmas, serving Thanksgiving dinner at a center for previously homeless women and children. I've learned over the years to focus my volunteering time in areas where I have gifts and enjoy my service. I do not usually go to the "clean the church" days, because I don't have the gift of cleaning (just take a look at my house!). I don't cook meals often, because that is not my gift. It becomes a chore rather than something that gives me joy. And sometimes we have to do things that aren't our specific gifts. Sometimes there are things in any organization that need doing, and sometimes we have to offer our warm bodies to do them. I'm willing to do that on occasion. But where I really give my time and effort is into the things that speak to my heart: children, artistic expression, study and fellowship.

I also volunteer a lot in the theatre. Granted, most of the work I do in the theatre ends in a check of some sort for me. But depending on the show, the check is often MUCH smaller than my gas bill, let alone the time and energy (and babysitting fees!) I put into it. I get frustrated by this, and wish I could make a living acting. But I started thinking about it as volunteering. By volunteering my time and talent I am keeping an artistic organization going - an organization that does pay people for their creativity (directors, designers, etc make more than actors do, at this level, anyways!) I bring theatre to people for a more reasonable price. If I value art and music and theatre and dance then volunteering my time toward making these things available to the community is a very worthwhile endeavor.

And then there are the other occasional things: helping out at MQ's school, organizing things through my local MOMS Club, etc.

When I stop to look at it, even when I'm NOT in rehearsals for a show or running VBS or another large project, I am probably volunteering 5-10 hours a week. So I was tempted to say to Jen and Mad (and Hel and Suzanne) "Look, here is your present! All the stuff I already do!"

But that feels a bit like regifting. Not that I've never done that. Ahem.

So I'm looking for another way to volunteer. Somewhere (most likely) outside of the church, something that deals a bit more directly with social justice issues. I'm not entirely sure what yet. I'm thinking and praying about it. I'm also thinking it would be nice to do something that MQ can join me for. One thing I'm thinking about is working through a nursing home, reading to a resident and visiting. MQ can make pictures and deliver her high wattage hugs. This won't bring world peace or stop hunger or even find homes for the homeless, but I think the elderly are so often overlooked in our society, and that we, in many ways, have failed them. But I wonder if there may not be a program for children in our area that I could get involved with, and have MQ join me. I'm just not sure. So, like so many people who are offering their gifts at this shower, I don't yet have a firm "this is what I am going to do." As I said, I've learned that volunteering in areas where my gifts and my heart are aligned has proven to be much more rewarding, not only for me but for those I am serving. Jumping into something and then not enjoying it enough to want to keep with it isn't helpful. So I have this vow, this vow that I hope isn't too wishy washy, that I am looking for a new way to volunteer, a way to help tackle the justice issues all around us. I just don't quite know what that will look like yet. But I am inspired by the voices I have heard, and am excited about how we are going to make this world a better place. Just think... last month they posted a list of posts by 33 writers. If these 33 people are moved to action, think of the individuals and communities they will effect. If they blog about it, think of the others who might also be inspired to act. And so it goes, snowballing out.

"Never doubt that a small group of committed people can change the world. In fact, it is the only thing that ever has."
Margaret Mead

Jen, Mad, Hel and Susanne... you are one heck of a small group of committed people. Look out world.

And I am reminded of another baby, whose birth I just celebrated, who came to bring justice to the world. I can think of no better way to launch this into the world. Unto US a child is born...

22 comments:

Aliki2006 said...

I LOVE that quote by Margaret Mead--it's one of my favorites...I'm also humbled by how much volunteering you already do...

slouching mom said...

i think jen and mad would probably agree that you're doing a lot already!

i, like aliki, am humbled.

jen said...

honey, this is wonderful. i love the elder facility idea, and yes, MQ would love it too and you'd bring such love and light to them.

Suz said...

I'm really amazed by the amount of volunteering that you do...I wish that I discovered the same thing when I looked around after saying that I don't volunteer, but I don't. And I'm looking, like yourself, for a way to change that.

Julie Pippert said...

You ARE doing a lot already. But your ideas sounds great, anyway. Fantastic.

Beck said...

You know, almost all of the volunteering I do is through my church, too. It's hard sometimes to think outside of those boundaries, and I think you're doing a WONDERFUL job.

carrie said...

I feel the same way, yes I do a lot of volunteering already - but what MORE can I do?

Nothing like the power of sisterhood to get a movement started. It is so wonderful!

flutter said...

This is wonderful!

Sober Briquette said...

You're right that volunteering for things that give something back to us or are close to our hearts makes it possible to maintain that commitment for so much longer, and to almost forget that we're giving our time for those things.

I know you will find something to match what you're looking for - there are dozens of programs that bring children in contact with the elderly here, and probably everywhere. You'll have fun.

Jennifer said...

This is wonderful and no, not wishy-washy at all. I posted about my gift for the baby shower today too and finding something my family could do together was important to me too -- I love that you want to involve the MQ. Not only would it be a great learning experience for her, but she herself has so many gift to offer. Hooray! And that Margaret Mead quote is a favorite, favorite of mine. :)

Kyla said...

You do a lot already...but your idea sounds splendid!

Mad Hatter said...

I too was not given the gift of cleaning. Sigh.

I think you are doing tons already. As you know, I ran one of those seat-of-the-pants, affordable theatre companies until quite recently and I do think volunteerism in the arts is one of the greatest gifts we can give.

Susanne said...

You are doing a lot already. I am truly humbled by all the commitments this "baby shower" has brought to life.

Your idea does sound marvelous but, please, don't overstretch yourself.

wheelsonthebus said...

Wow! You are busy. I would love to find a volunteer opportunity I could do with my kids.

Amy Y said...

Humbled here too... I thought I was a cool shit for volunteering at T's school (though I have to take a break from that this month due to work commitments)... I love the nursing home idea. I've been trying to find something that the whole family can do, so I can get my kids involved at a young age. Hopefully I'll figure it out in time for the baby shower!

Oh, The Joys said...

That Margaret Mead quote is one of my faves!

the dragonfly said...

I've been thinking a lot about the fact that I don't volunteer...my excuse lately has been that I don't have a car and I have a seven month old baby. But...maybe I can (slowly) knit baby blankets for the hospital or something. That I can do at home. No car required.

(I have to agree that the May Queen gives great hugs!!)

;)

thailandchani said...

Sounds like a wonderful way to go! It seems that if we just remain open to it, the right idea will present itself. :)

Karen said...

I love your ideas - I also have been thinking about how we care for the elderly - on my mind a bit as I watch my dad slowly age. And I think, there are folk like him without anyone to mind how their aging happens, no-one just touching base to see how it's going, if they are still okay week to week, month to month.

Family Adventure said...

Your ideas are great food for thought...

Heidi

Kathryn said...

You warm my heart. I think volunteering at a retirement/nursing home is a great idea. So many people living there do not have any family member visit them. And bringing the MQ would definitely raise their spirits. Maybe you could even bring your new kitty. The residents don't get to have pets anymore, and many enjoy that.
I really need to get out and volunteer more. Thanks for another inspiring post.

Christine said...

oooooh--i just love you pm! you are such an example. and my gift is going to be visiting the elderly more often . i am going to write about that later today. . .

Running on empty