Here I Am

“I’d like a tall white chocolate mocha, extra hot, no whip, stirred.” Yes, this is somebody’s actual standard Starbucks order. Some of you might even know who it is! (No, it’s not me; I take my chocolate dark or milk, not white. But I digress.) I have spoken and written extensively and repeatedly about the growing dangers that I see from our culture’s ever-increasing individualism, as catered to in our consumer-driven economy. An area where I have not to date spoken about–but I’m about to–is how our consumerism has collided with our volunteerism. Just like we special order our coffee drinks (and most everything else in our lives), we are also getting very good at specializing the time, setting and manner of the things we do for other people.

On the one hand, there’s nothing wrong with using our particular gifts and interests to meet the needs of others. But on the other hand, we can bring the same level of demand to our volunteer efforts as we bring to our barista. Meeting needs and serving OTHERS just that, and really has very little to do with our desires.

I say this because in all aspects of our lives, we should all be more cognizant of letting the very real needs of others drive our efforts to serve rather choosing what we do for others based on OUR preferences. This is important for how we personally encounter the needs of others in our daily life as well as how do so as we as a community of Christians together, as the Church.

While this is important for us to pay attention to, I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you I have something specific in mind. 

In 2017, our Archdiocese Convention was two years away. In May of this year, it was two months away. But as of last Sunday, the Convention is two weeks away. This Sunday, one week before we welcome our Archdiocese to our beloved home in West Michigan, the leadership of our Convention committee will be seeking everyone’s help as we try to fill the dozens of needed time slots for volunteers for all aspects of the convention: ushers for church services, introducers of speakers, servers and cleanup folks for various meals, security personnel to manage access into events, friendly faces to man the registration booth, and many more. We’ll be having a “rally” to both get excited for the Convention that is finally here, but also to RALLY our parishioners and fill all the needed volunteer spots. As the actual date of the convention is no longer years, months or even weeks away, in the few remaining days we have left to fill spots, we find ourselves in need of volunteers who may not otherwise choose to fill such roles. But needs they are.

In addition to helping out some nearly frantic committee chairs, this is a good exercise for all of us to step forward in ways that may not suit our particular liking, but instead are focused on what volunteering is all about: meeting the needs of others. I would like to encourage all of us to use this opportunity and push back against the advances of our consumerism that has infiltrated our volunteerism, on our way of pushing it out of every aspect of our lives.

It ends up being much easier to do than we often feel. When someone says “Can you help?” we should not imagine the question to be “Do you want to help?” or “Is this what you feel like doing?” but instead hear the question that is actually being asked. This type of service was modeled for us by none other than our Lord, Jesus Christ. He didn’t choose the way He served based on what He wanted to do. We need only recall his sweat coming down like drops of blood onto the ground in the garden of Gethsemane to understand how he serves. He issued the call “Follow me” to his Disciples and later sent them out as Apostles. And off they went.

This isn’t only a way to fill slots to host an Archdiocese Convention, though it will be that–and very welcomed as such! This is nothing other than the way of life, the way of service, the way of Christ. He invites everyone who wants to follow Him to “Deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24). If He is the one we choose to follow, we really have no other choice than to step forward, raise our hands, and sign on the dotted line. “Here I am, send me,” was how the Prophet Isaiah responded to his calling. So this Sunday, and all the days thereafter, let’s all practice our prophetic and apostolic calling and answer simply, ” Here I am, send me.”