Like many others in the past few weeks, our TV has been tuned to news channels reporting on events in Cairo and across Egypt. Like many others, we have kept the Egyptian people in our prayers as we hoped that the changes there would be peaceful.
One of the enduring images that has remained in my mind is a picture of ordinary citizens during the height of the protests, clearing mess away and sweeping streets — one young woman who was interviewed said “this is where we live and it is our duty to care for it.”
These volunteers were concerned about dignity and quality of life for their neighbours, even during revolution, offering time and effort of their own free will.
This is the time of year when our own communities are honouring all who volunteer in capacities that are as diverse as our towns are active.
Nominees for volunteer of the year are models of citizenship we recognize and celebrate. It may be a trite saying that communities thrive on volunteerism, but it really is true. Thankfully we live with peace on our streets, and local municipal workers keep them clean for us, but that is no reason for us to shrink from looking for other opportunities to give whatever time and effort we can offer.
In the New Testament we read that early communities understood very well that their wellbeing and sustainability needed individuals to share their God-given spiritual and tangible gifts. Writing to one community, St. Paul said “pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding” and, “Each of us must [work] for the good purpose of building up our neighbor.”
It is an important thought — that our own gifts, including our time and abilities, are placed in our hands to be managed wisely and gently not just for ourselves but for the good of those among whom we live.
In church-speak, we are stewards of the gifts with which God has blessed us — our very lives, our skills and time, and our financial resources.
A good self examining question for us to ask ourselves in the quietness of our own minds is this: “What am I contributing to my community beyond those things I am obliged to do?”
The volunteers in our own communities, those who are honoured publicly, and the many more who give of themselves in countless, quiet ways without recognition, are inspiration to everyone to consider their own contributions.
Organizations such as the Oceanside Volunteer Association provide resources for those who are interested in volunteering. If you have access to the internet, their website highlights many great examples of our own citizens who have done just that, and it also lists some excellent volunteering opportunities. (See www.oceansidevolunteer.org)
Those volunteer street sweepers in Cairo may have done a lot more than clean their own community! They point us toward our own vocation for building each other up.
Rev. Alan Naylor is at St. Mark’s Anglican Church, Qualicum Beach