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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Volunteer (11/23/06)

TITLE: I See That Hand
By Brenda Smith


I See That Hand

“I have four words for you,” began Dad’s wise counsel. “Opportunity is not mandate.”

“But, Dad, you have always told me that ‘service is the rent I pay for my space on earth.’ What about that?” After a few stabs at justifying my extreme volunteerism I acquiesced, sat quietly and listened. His next words challenged me. “What is it that only you can do? What is it that you do easily and well? When do people tell you that they see your giftedness?” These questions burned into my heart. Years later I would add a question of my own, “When do I feel God’s pleasure?”

I thought back on years of racing dinners to Moms with new babies, playing for funerals and weddings, phoning others with prayer requests rather than cleaning my house and rounding up other volunteers who strayed from their tasks while barely making the carpool line for my own children. Many times I raised my hand to say yes before anyone else even had the opportunity. As Dad talked I realized that my problem wasn’t saying “no.” My problem was knowing when to say “yes.”

As a board member (another volunteer position) of a woman’s organization I entered into many discussions about time, talent and treasure. They are a stewardship. The haphazard acceptance of responsibility is sloppy management of God’s resources. None of these three is limitless; therefore, the use of them without prayerful consideration is misuse and often abuse.

Haven’t you raised your hand for something that will “take an hour or so a month” only to be inundated with details and dilemmas? Didn’t that opportunity to be on the prestigious class reunion committee have your name “written all over it?” Weeks and weeks later you dreaded each new report outlining the latest to do list.

But on the other hand, haven’t you experienced the tremendous joy of being a board member who understood the mission and knew how to ask the right questions? And think about the annual women’s Christmas luncheon. You felt weary but exhilarated because you saw your ideas come to life while sharing the work with others. As you unpacked the car from the Girl Scout overnight you smiled to yourself because you added a definite element of fun to the rainy, muddy weekend.

What is the difference? You stewarded your gifts well. You made volunteer decisions that maximized your impact. You felt God’s pleasure as you ran.

Now, as a much older and a somewhat wiser woman I reflect on three steps before raising my hand:

1) Validate the need for my uniqueness. How did God design me to particularly move this forward? What can I offer that is specifically helpful?
2) Verify my motivation. Am I jumping in to get ahead spiritually, socially, professionally? Have I done a heart check before smiling and dialing?
3) Voice my hope for the outcome to avoid confusion. What are the deliverables? What are the expectations? And most importantly, what are the assumptions for the task?

Volunteer victories come when I raise my hand to operate from my strengths and not my sense of obligation. Being a co-laborer brings fulfillment and joy. Being coerced labor brings bitterness and regret. Opportunity is definitely not mandate. We don’t have to sign up for every committee and every event. Making wise choices gives us the freedom to serve with grace. Sitting quietly and waiting for the best and highest use of my gifts may not qualify me for “Volunteer of the Year” but it will make me fruitful and ultimately more useful.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Marita Vandertogt12/01/06
Thanks for sharing your wisdom and for giving me some things to think about in my own search to see where I can be most effective. Well written - much appreciated!
Leigh MacKelvey12/05/06
Wow, this hit home with me!
I was happy to see a voulnteer entry written from this viewpoint. Very well, written, I might add!
InHm, Leigh