Grey Power

Give Every Day is about giving our talents, our gifts and our resources — financial or otherwise– towards helping others and shining the light of Christ into their circumstances. No matter our age, volunteering is a great way to not only help others, but to help ourselves. Giving our time is both emotionally and spiritually satisfying, and pleasing in the Lord’s eyes.

By Ron Matheson

givinghandsI have a picture of my grandfather with a large number of workers at Morrows Tool and Die in Ingersoll. I don’t ever remember hearing him speak about the work that he did as rewarding or enjoyable. It was hard work in a noisy, sweaty factory. I don’t believe anyone ever suggested he would be more fulfilled if he found a job he was passionate about—something he would do for free, an occupation designed to help him find his place in life. It would have seemed silly if someone had suggested that in order to find fulfilment in life he needed to work in a place that added value to others or made a significant difference in his life. Yet, I do remember him as someone who was fulfilled. He was healthy and active until shortly before he died at the age of 98.

How often have I heard young men and women lament the fact that they work in a career that is less than rewarding? Respecting the fact that some occupations are just not a fit for some persons, it is still possible to find fulfilment and meaning in life. There are individuals who have landed in a career that is both rewarding for them and others. With the scope of non-profit organizations and charities increasing as a growing industry, it is more and more likely that a position like that is possible. However, if you evaluate the work that we do, would we find that the essence of our life fulfilment is more than our career. Like my grandfather, we can make a significant difference in this world no matter how we provide for our families. In fact, the impact my grandfather had was probably more significant after he retired. It is in our giving that we find gratification and as a volunteer in our communities and churches that we really find our place.

Our time is limited when we are raising a family, providing for them and giving focus to our careers. However, as we age, one thing is certain, we do have more discretionary time. One study has indicated that although there are fewer senior volunteers compared to other age groups, the amount of time the 50-plus generation volunteers is almost double. There is a tremendous opportunity to make a difference as we move toward this stage of life. The sheer numbers and the extended life expectancy with increased health have unleashed previously unknown opportunities for significant and long-term spiritual and social impact.

The Benefits of Volunteerism

You can make a difference that is mutually beneficial. The recipients of your time and financial gifts obviously profit from your sacrifice. Having been a pastor for over 30 years and now the Director of Stewardship and Spiritual Life at Shepherd Village I have seen the full spectrum of the impact volunteers and donors have on recipients. When people are hungry, cold and in continuous pain, it is hard to hear a message of love. Jesus commanded that the gospel message be packaged in words and acts of love and kindness. He reminded us that loving God was exemplified by loving our neighbour (Matthew 22:37-39). Jesus then went on to describe who your neighbour might be when He told the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). The advantage to the recipient is obvious, but what is not so apparent at times is the benefit to the benefactor.

Volunteerism and charitable giving has a gain for both the recipient and the one who gives. In fact, the one giving time and/or money receives such a benefit that there are those who argue there is no such thing as altruism. When I read about the emotional lift received from benevolent giving, I wonder at my reticence to ask others to give.  I have thought, at times, that I am imposing on people by requesting that they give time or money even though the cause and need is justified. I have had to enlarge my thinking about offering opportunities for involvement.

We cheat people out of health and emotional well-being if we fail to provide opportunities for service. Numerous studies have been done by sociologists, psychologists and scientists that verify what Scripture has affirmed since Isaiah’s time. There is good evidence that a life of service and generosity has resulted in such an increase in the quality of life so as to even affect the length of one’s life. Surprising? Perhaps not when you seriously think about the times you have helped someone in need.

Scientists have referred to what is called the “Helpers High,” a chemical boost that makes us feel better when working as a volunteer or in making a donation to a charity. “It’s a mixture of dopamine, serotonin, and other chemicals where some research has found even the levels of Immunoglobulin A, a first defence against the common cold virus, are experienced.”1

What seems to be true is that the emotional boost results in a high that is greater than a healthy workout and has longer results. Even bringing back the memory of the activity will have the same resulting burst of emotion followed by a sense of serenity and calm, lowering blood pressure, stomach acid and cholesterol counts. The experience acts as an antidote to chronic pain, depression, headaches and insomnia. There are numerous benefits to physical exercise; however it seems that volunteering and generosity have the added benefit of being able to experience the same result by recalling the activity.

Some research has indicated that those who are 55-plus and volunteer for two or more organizations have a 44 per cent less likelihood of dying. Not to fear, you will eventually make it to the Promised Land and with the joy of having made others and yourself happier.

They also suggest that it had a higher impact than exercising four times a week or going to church. That’s not surprising either. Attending a Sunday “service” is not all the Church is called to do. We are called to follow Christ in acts of love and kindness. How often did Jesus say that those who were genuine followers were those who were doers of the Word? It isn’t any wonder that we don’t hear Jesus suggest we memorize His teachings so that we can repeat them to others. John called us to love and be generous in spirit so that others would know we are Christ followers. Unless the Church is involved in living Christ, we are depriving ourselves of genuine emotional, spiritual and physical health.

“For this is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another… This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth” (1 John 3:11,16-18 NIV).

I am no longer surprised that the supposed sacrifice I am asked to offer has significant personal value and an obvious benefit to the recipient. The one who knows us best, our Lord Jesus Christ, has crafted us in such a way that when we follow Him there is a win for all.

Let me take you back to my grandfather. Part of his fulfilment was that he was productive, even at the factory. He was made in the image of God to be busy and there is enjoyment in work itself. However, I contend that his greatest joy came from the volunteer work in which he invested his life. And the power of this present and emerging senior generation is in its ability and willingness to engage their skills, knowledge, time and financial gifts in the service of Christ to their local and global community.

The opportunities are enormous! (Isaiah 58:7,8).

Ron Matheson is the director of Stewardship and Spiritual Life at Shepherd Village in Toronto.

1 Sound Medicine from the Indiana University March 22, 2003 referencing the book, The Healing Power of Doing Good, Allan Luks and Peggy Payne.

This article appeared in the April 2010 issue of 50 Plus Contact, a quarterly publication of The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada.

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