Share the Journey – Rewards outweigh the challenges of volunteering

Shelley Dewig

People often “fluff up” volunteer work as something easy and effortless. But in my role as volunteer and community relationship manager at Catholic Charities, I’ve learned firsthand that volunteering can be challenging — but the successes make the hard work worth it in the end.

A volunteer’s journey begins with finding the right organization. After that, you often must fill out an application, attend trainings, pass background checks and wait to be placed. Then once you’re in the midst of volunteering, there may come a moment when you question whether you’re cut out for this.

For instance, maybe you want to support our anti-human trafficking program, the Bakhita Empowerment Initiative, and sign up to raise funds by running a half marathon with our Bakhita Freedom Racers team. But you’ve never actually run that far in your life, and at the end of the race, you collapse from pain and exhaustion, thanking God out loud that it’s over. (That may or may not be a first-person account.)

Or perhaps you feel inadequate as an American citizen when the client you’re tutoring for the citizenship exam asks how many amendments the Constitution has, and you have no idea. (Turns out there are 27, and yes I had to look that up.) Maybe you blank on how to change a diaper or how to hold a bottle while caring for four babies simultaneously in our Family Support or Migration and Refugee Services ddaycare and you hear all about it from those loud cries. Or the refugee family you’re sponsoring arrives hours late on their delayed flight, and you don’t get home until 2 a.m.

Volunteering is tough. However, volunteering also is an incredibly beautiful and grace-filled act.

Every major religious tradition points to the act of service as a vital component of belief. In the Christian tradition, 1 Peter 4:10 says “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” In the Islamic tradition, in the book Maryam in the Quran, chapter 19 verse 96 says “Those who believe and do good deeds – the Gracious God will create love in their hearts.” The Buddha is quoted as saying, “Give, even if you only have a little.”

Humans, on a fundamental level, are called to give, love and serve others. We all know that volunteering can be challenging, but we’ve also all had those moments when we realized the difficulties were worth it. For example, despite the debilitating pain after running a half marathon, you know your efforts helped human-trafficking survivors receive mental health services. After other volunteers in our daycare teach you how to change a diaper and hold a bottle, you get to experience the magic that is holding a happy baby. After waiting so long to meet the refugee family you are sponsoring, you are bombarded by hugs when they arrive. These are all experiences that volunteers have had at Catholic Charities, and they are beautiful examples of the grace that comes from service.

All of us at Catholic Charities are humbled to share the journey with our clients, and we would love for you to join us in this mission! You can learn how to get involved at our next volunteer orientation on Wednesday, Oct. 10, at 5:30 p.m. at 2911 S. Fourth St.

Shelley Dewig

The Record
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