This is a story about four hours that had an unexpected effect on my life. Four little hours out of the more than 720 available in a month that I decided to volunteer; let me tell you why I choose to do it, what I thought would happen and what actually happened.
Why? Well, there are a lot of good causes out there and a lot of reasons that well-intentioned people volunteer for them. I wish I could tell you my initial reasons for signing up were really deep and meaningful. The cause absolutely was; my friends had started a ministry called ECHO, Everyday Christians Helping Orphans. They were just starting to open centers to sort and distribute items to foster families and relative and non-relative care givers. They saw a real need and they were working incredibly hard to help the kids and families. The job was big and they needed help and I said yes. As things settled into a routine, I ended up volunteering every other Thursday from 7-9 at the busiest center. I wish that I could say I initially had a great heart or concern for the cause but the truth is I didn’t even really have a clue about that part of society. I was a tired, busy mom who thought it would be nice to get out of the house for a few hours a month to talk to other adults and maybe do a little good for someone else.
What I thought would happen was not much of anything. I thought I would show up, help sort through some toys and clothes, hang them up, smile and talk to people and go home two hours later. I was glad to imagine that some families and kids in tough situations might find a little help and relief but couldn’t see much more beyond that.
I was wrong. Something entirely different happened.
It did not take many weeks for me to see how much I had not seen before. My eyes were opened. I had not considered the kids and the families and their struggles and stories and the impact that knowing them could have on me. It is one thing to talk about helping a group of people; it is another thing altogether to get to know them. I thought that I would be helping them but really they were changing me. There were heartbreaks and struggles I could not have imagined and there were people sacrificing a lot of their own lives to offer hope and happiness to these kids. I am truly changed for having witnessed it. And although I am a Christian and it is a Christian ministry, I also did not anticipate the number of times God would miraculously work things out, put them together and show Himself faithful.
I did not expect all of that from just four hours a month, which even the busiest of schedules can afford. I have been impacted and changed and I cannot tell you how these families and kids have opened my eyes and made a place in my heart and mind. I am grateful for this opportunity to volunteer where I get to help a little and be amazed a lot.