This past week we heard of the resignation of virtually the entire volunteer board of the Southlake Hospital Foundation. The reasons for this drastic action were not revealed but they seem to have involved a conflict of values over a personnel issue.
The Foundation is the fundraising arm of our hospital and, in these days of excessive costs, is an important part of our community life. In fact, this episode caused me to reflect on the importance of volunteering in our society.
I myself serve as a member of the board of directors for the Newmarket Food Pantry. This organization is completely dependent on volunteers. Volunteers serve the client base directly by assisting them with the selection of foods, other volunteers give of their substance by providing gifts of food or money to help sustain this service.
As a pastor, I am supported chiefly by a large and varied group of volunteers who do the work of the church in this place. All of them give of their talent and time (and also their treasure) to advance the work of the church in Newmarket.
Volunteers are the backbone of so many initiatives in our society that provide a helping hand to those in need. And the reality is, we may all need assistance at some point in our lives. The whole structure of volunteer associations is vital to the functioning of our society as a caring, compassionate and just society.
In addition, volunteers themselves benefit greatly from their decision to “love their neighbour as themselves”. Studies have indicated that there are enormous benefits that accrue to people who volunteer. Physical benefits include living longer, significant reduction in stress, improved sleep and overall help in maintaining good health. Emotional pluses include increased self-acceptance, a reduced sense of isolation and self-absorption, improved ability to cope with crises, and enhanced compassion, empathy and sensitivity. There are also spiritual benefits: greater clarity about the purpose and meaning of one’s life, peace of mind, an increase in the sense of thanksgiving, and a greater connectedness to God.
Let us pray.
Everlasting God, strengthen and sustain all those who volunteer in our community, that with patience and understanding they may love and care for your people; and grant that together they may offer their gifts and talents to bring healing, hope and compassion to all those in need; through Jesus Christ who cares for the poor and the hungry and suffers with the sick and rejected. Amen.