I recently read an article done by the University of Michigan (September 2011) which reported on facts gleaned from several volunteer longevity studies, some tracking people since 1957. Here is a brief summary.
Those who volunteered regularly lived longer than those who did not. Those who volunteered out of an inward desire or compassion for others outlived those who volunteered for personal reasons. Additionally, those who volunteered for personal reasons had the same death rates as non-volunteers. Motive seemed to be the biggest factor in longevity. This is what sparked my interest.
I just returned from a trip to Thailand where I visited our volunteers. If I were to summarize the comments I received from the volunteers, they would fall into two camps. One camp would be those who chose to go as a volunteer out of an inner desire to serve and the other camp would be those who went for adventure. My non-scientific review leads me to conclude that those with the inner desire to serve others had a happier and more successful experience volunteering compared to those who were motivated by personal reasons.
When we look at the Biblical account, we find that conversion empowers the Holy Spirit to make a new person with a God-given desire to serve others. This comes in two facets – first a love for God, and then a love for others (Matt 22:37-39). Both of these are equal in God’s sight and cannot exist apart from each other. I am not saying that those who went for personal reasons lack a relationship with God. Certainly those who volunteer out of a desire for adventure can love and serve God. It would, however, appear that volunteering out of an intrinsic desire to serve others is a product of the working of the Holy Spirit. This may bring greater blessings.
Volunteering driven by an inward desire to help and serve others can result in God’s blessing of a longer life that enables us to serve others more. The longevity study does not factor in a relationship with God. It does count the motive for serving, and it is here that Christianity can factor in. God can add His blessing to anyone who does His will in helping others. Life is a gift on loan from God! It stands to reason that if we choose to live within His plan, we will receive His blessings. Plan to get the most out of your volunteer experience by following His purpose for your life.
*Helen Hall began her volunteer career in December, 1993. She retired in December, 2013.
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