Did you know April is National Volunteer Month in the United States? More specifically, the third week in April was designated as National Volunteer Week in 1974. Honestly, I was not aware of this until recently. The reality is there is a day for everything these days. In fact, many days are “the day” for many different things. Take April 6th, for example. In 2023, April 6th was National Burrito Day, National Employee Benefits Day, National Sorry Charlie Day (huh?), and National Caramel Popcorn Day, just to name a few. While there is nothing wrong with celebrating (I love burritos!), the volume of celebrations can make us numb to their existence. Could this be the case for National Volunteer Week? Does it really matter?
Volunteering is something many of us have been told we “should do”, but fewer of us have the burning desire to do. There are many reasons for this, but for many people it comes down to time and impact. The truth is life is busy. When we are young, we believe life is busy until we get older, accumulate more responsibilities, and realize life really wasn’t that busy. Like money, most of us figure out how to spend the “free time” we have, regardless of its abundance or scarcity. However, also like money, it is more of a question of priority than availability. We may be very busy, but more than likely we could make the time to volunteer if we saw it as a priority. This is certainly true for me.
This really speaks to the second reason: impact. We are not sure if the time we give is really going to make a difference. This is a fair question. Can one person really create change? It would be easy to point to people such as Martin Luther King, Jr. or Mother Teresa and say yes, but most of us do not live in that space. For most people, volunteering looks like an hour on a Saturday or Sunday, not a lifelong dedication to enacting change. What about the rest of us? Is our hour meaningful?
The best answer might be another question: what if everyone said no? What if everyone decided their hour didn’t have a big enough “return on investment” and stopped volunteering? The impact would be devastating. People and communities would suffer as hunger increased, homelessness grew, and educational services became scarce among many other consequences. Does the impact one person has make a difference? Yes, because it is an important part of a collective effort. Without the willingness of individual people to say yes to volunteering, the larger impact we often point to would cease to exist. Taking a single step makes a big difference.
Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “Everybody can be great. Because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You don’t have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”
“Everybody can be great.” Deep within us, we all want to live a life of significance. We want our lives to matter for more than just ourselves. Who can be great? Who can live a life that matters? According to Martin Luther King, Jr. the answer is “everybody.” This is the other impact of volunteering. Not only do we make a difference in the life of someone else, we discover greater significance ourselves. Volunteering has a multiplied impact and creates a cycle of love and significance. Our collective effort changes our communities and the world for the better and reminds us that our lives truly matter. I believe this is by design. We were not created to live only for ourselves. We were created by a God who love us on purpose and for a purpose. When we give our lives away, we are reminded of our inherent, God-given value.
I have found this to be true myself. I have been able to make an impact by bringing what I have to the collective table. My individual effort is multiplied by the efforts of others. I have also found greater significance in serving others. As I have brought others hope, I have found more hope for myself and the world. I believe the same can be true for you. Why not use this National Volunteer Week as an opportunity to get started? You can have an impact and discover greater significance in the process. Do you need help getting started? Click here for other resources to help you take your next step.
Happy National Volunteer Week!