Many years ago, in a class at Freed-Hardeman on marriage and the family, the professor, Lawrence Taylor, said that the real test of belonging to a family was not in having privileges but to what degree one has the opportunity to give back. I deeply believe that statement to be true. I tried to teach my own children that being a part of the family means being able to give to the family. Everyone wants the benefits of receiving, but recognizing the need to give back is a much loftier lesson and not ever attained by all. I believe that those who do not give, to whatever group in which they claim membership, are really only spectators. They will never achieve true belonging until the give.
After several years of a national fly-in down in Florida each spring, I decided I wanted to do more working as part of the volunteer staff. This past April, during an informal ceremony, I proudly took a pin from the president of the organization noting my 5 years serving on the volunteer staff. One of the couples in my same group, received award plaques for their 45 years of service! This year was the 45th Anniversary celebration of the event. They were 2 of only 13 remaining founders and have never missed a year! I sat with them during the wrap-up dinner and peppered them with questions about the past. The pin I got cost very little and is virtually worthless as an object. Whereas the amount of money I have spent traveling to this event each year has been significant. And the effort is significant.
My "volunteer" day starts with an operational safety briefing at 7:30 a.m. and does not end until 7:30 p.m., with the last plane departing for the day. I have new friends and a sense of responsibility to the event. I make it work, I belong. i am not a spectator, I give.
Several years ago we took a church group to Israel. I was sitting late one night in a Jerusalem hospital while the doctors were examining one of our injured tourists. As I sat with our guide in the waiting area about midnight, there were ten or so high-school aged young people there. When I asked about them, our guide told me that they were Jewish high school students. EVERY student was expected to be an active community volunteer. They were trained to help with fire fighting, emergency medical teams, police duties and other functions. His explanation spoke of the true meaning of community. "We're a family," he stated. Then asked, "How could one expect to benefit from a community without feeling an obligation to provide something back in return?" It was a great question!
I felt a bit embarrassed as I thought about our own country, that most of our young people, and probably their parents, would not agree to such an arrangement. For that matter, what about our churches? How many give like that?
It is clear in churches everywhere that few persons are willing to contribute to the various works of the church with their time and efforts. More demands are constantly made on churches for programs and facilities but who is willing to do the work? Every group can excuse themselves if they desire. The older ones say they have "paid their dues," so let the younger ones do it. The younger say, "we are struggling to start our families and just keep going! The older ones are retired and have all the time!" And so it goes.
Jesus shocked his disciples when he washed their feet (Jn. 13). It was an object lesson that was impossible to miss. He said that most people in the world view honor as having others wait on them, "Yet I am among you as the one who serves." (in. 13:27). "Let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves." (Luke 22:26 RSV). To belong is to give - - to give is to serve - - and that is a powerful lesson to learn.
- Tim Orbison