The Heart of the Volunteer

My husband and I aren’t fans of reality shows, but there is one that has caught our attention—Secret Millionaire, which airs Sunday nights on ABC.

In this show, millionaires go undercover with the story that they’re filming a documentary about volunteers. They move into poverty-stricken—and sometimes dangerous—areas for a week with few dollars to live on. Their goal is to find worthy community programs, and then donate portions of their wealth to help continue the work being done.

So far we’ve watched entrepreneur Dani Johnson spend a week in Knoxville, Tennessee. Real estate investor Marc Paskin spend a week in the dangerous part of Detroit. And motivational guru James Malinchak live on welfare-level wages in Gary, Indiana, where he had to worry about bullets flying through his window.

What they discovered has probably changed their lives forever. They found people who clean up neighborhoods, and those who patrol them to lessen the number of crimes committed. Volunteers who provide after-school programs, mentoring and educational programs for children and adults, soup kitchens, and transportation to medical appointments and dialysis.

One family completely makes over bedrooms of very ill or terminally ill children so they have a cheery place to stay. Because of finances being drained, they didn’t know if they could continue fixing up bedrooms—even though the need is great—until they were presented with large check by one of the millionaires.

The wealthy who write out the large checks should be appreciated for their generosity. They don’t have to share a penny of what they’ve earned through ingenuity and hard work. But the real heroes are the volunteers and people who run these programs day after day.

People with little money to live on are giving many hours to their communities—hoping to make a better place—a better life—for others. They provide opportunities for young people to not only stay out of trouble, but to possibly go to college. These volunteers scrape by with whatever funds they can raise. They don’t ask for anything for themselves, but they give so much.

What has impressed and moved me is the kind of heart these volunteers display—their genuine care and concern—their love—for people. They don’t volunteer to draw attention to themselves, or to receive accolades. They focus on helping others ahead of helping themselves.

It takes a servant’s heart to be that kind of volunteer. “Whoever wants to become great must become a servant.” (Matthew 20:26 The Message Bible)

I believe many of us would like to give our time and talents to help others. I believe we have good intentions. But, too often our willingness to actually jump in is hindered by perceived obstacles: it’s too far to drive, I don’t have time, it’s too much of a commitment, it’s too hard, I’m not qualified, it doesn’t fit into my schedule … Sometimes, we’re just plain selfish. I have to admit—I, too, am guilty of making excuses.

Of course, there's a flip side. There are those who burn themselves out because they volunteer too much! So where is the balance? What are we called to do? What is our passion? Where can our time and talents best be used?

The answer lies within our own hearts.

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