A volunteer is a person who can see what others cannot see; who can feel what most do not feel. Often, such gifted persons do not think of themselves as volunteers, but as citizens – citizens in the fullest sense: partners in civilization. President George H.W. Bush
There is no higher religion than human service. To work for the common good is the greatest creed. President Woodrow Wilson
My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country. President John F. Kennedy
Above is a small smattering of quotes by some of our presidents about service. Service by its very nature is about looking out for someone other than yourself. Service of any kind is noble.
It warms my heart when I think about all the acts of service that Bethel engages in throughout the year but especially during Advent. We continue to contribute to the Lord’s Pantry at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church and we have collected many items for West Valley Community Services. We also sponsored many children through Help One Child and are working toward providing Christmas for several men in a group home named Casa Unida.
Every time we individually participate in service we are pushing back against individualism and selfishness.
I suppose we could debate whether or not whether or not selfishness and individualism has increased over the past 40 years in our country because that isn’t something we can measure. Anecdotally, we are not as close to our literal neighbors compared to 40 years ago and certainly, we can agree that civility is waning.
I am reminded of a scene in one of my favorite baseball movies: Field of Dreams.
Ray Kinsella is a farmer outside of Dyersville, Iowa who hears a voice that tells him, “Built it and they will come.” Along with that voice from heaven he sees a vision of a baseball field in the corn field next to his house. He listens to the voice and against all reason (including financial) he builds a baseball field. Shortly after that, long dead baseball players show up to play baseball in his field including members of the 1919 “Black Sox” team who were banned from baseball for supposedly throwing the 1919 World Series.
After a while, Ray (the owner of the field) gets frustrated about wants to see where these baseball players go after they are done playing baseball (presumably heaven).
Ray Kinsella: I want to know what’s out there! I want to see it!
Shoeless Joe Jackson: But you’re not invited.
Ray Kinsella: Not invited? What do you mean I’m not invited! That’s my corn out there, you guys are guests in my corn!
Terence Mann: Ray…
Ray Kinsella: No wait, I have done everything that I’ve been asked to do! I didn’t understand it, but I’ve done it; and I haven’t once asked ‘what’s in it for me?’
Shoeless Joe Jackson: What are you saying Ray?
Ray Kinsella: I’m saying… what’s in it for me?
If you haven’t seen the movie and you love baseball, take the time to watch it. I cry at the end… every time. No spoiler alert here, but Ray does get something out of it that is wonderful.
Ray Kinsella asks a question we ask ourselves (sometimes subconsciously) when we look at any issue, “What’s in it for me?” This question gets in the way of a way more important question, “What is good for the community and my neighbor?”
When we stop thinking about and acting on behalf of our community, it will fall apart. Community is something that must be nurtured for it to flourish. If everyone is in it for themselves, there is no community. A bunch of people living in proximity to each other may mean they live in a city but it doesn’t automatically mean they live in community.
I am overjoyed that Bethel not only tries to help the community but actively wants to build community among those who attend (guest or member).
How do we do that as individuals in our neighborhoods, our towns and in our nation? It is not an easy task.
But let us take the words of Jesus to heart…
“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:25-28