Supporting a Family with a Volunteer’s Heart

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I like doing things that don’t pay very well.

I love volunteering.

Teaching, counseling, coaching, advising people FEEDS MY SOUL.

It doesn’t feed my bank account.

Give me the opportunity to help someone and I’ve already mentally agreed before you even give me the details of what I’m gaining from the exchange. It’s the blessing/curse I’ve been given.

“It pays the bills” is an answer I’ve heard SO. MANY. TIMES. in the midst of small-town working class community. I can assure you that I know the value in a job that pays the bills. It is THE most valuable short-term goal, especially when you have kids. Sometimes it’s not about what YOU want, it’s about what THEY need.

I am the daughter of two teachers in a small town. Growing up, we couldn’t go anywhere (ANYWHERE) without seeing a former student of one, or both, of my parents. The exchange was almost always calculated in the same way.

Add smiles, subtract my parents’ attention, multiply the questions, divide the prompted responses from the real ones.

“How have you been?”

“What are you doing these days?”

“Oh, that’s great.”

Insert [profession] here. Electrician, plumber, construction worker, teacher, nurse. An assortment of blue collar and professionalism, and yet the answer was often the same. “It pays the bills.” I’m sorry, what?!

Call me immature and unrealistic for not being appeased by this answer.

Apparently I’m living in a world where I’ll ride a rainbow into a pot of paychecks and a magical unicorn will sign autographs onto my bills without ever buying stamps.

Is it not unsettling that this is the most positive statement you can utter when someone asks how you spend a majority of every week of every year?

These careers are no less than extraordinary in their own right. Are we being truthful or downplaying? Ashamed? Dodging the question?

Maybe it’s become THE generic response. You say it halfheartedly in the same way you say, “That’ll do” or “works for me!”.

Maybe you have a job and a livelihood that aren’t the same thing, I assume.

Tell me that you started dancing and it’s made you a more patient mom.

Show me the plans you’ve drawn with marker on a folded napkin.

I am so very impressed by that, to my core.

Give me an Apple watch or a Farmhouse kitchen and I’d be a happy girl, but impressed?

Have an entire conversation with me without complaining and I will be so very IMPRESSED with your gratitude.

You see, the thing about stuff is that it’s just stuff. Even your grandfather’s boots from Vietnam or your Great Aunt’s leather bound Bible. All it takes is one fire. One storm.

But your service. It’s imbedded into minds and lives long after every physicality of yours is gone.

“Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.” -Muhammad Ali

I won’t apologize for being the way that I am.

For having two degrees and the ability to make tens of thousands of dollars yearly yet still listen to podcasts on building a nonprofit.

For writing this blog that absolutely no one pays me to write because it helps me organize my thoughts after a long day of both monotony and chaos.

For encouraging people like me to adjust their action according to their passion.

I couldn’t tell you what mixed breed of dogs we had growing up but I could tell you that my mom never refused to feed a stray.

I couldn’t tell you what brand of cleats I wore in the eight grade but I could tell you that my dad built the bleachers at my softball field that year.

I couldn’t tell you what I was doing right before anyone asked anything of me but I can tell you that my kids were watching.

It takes a lot to support a family. And we, as a culture, replace the word [support] with [pay for]. It takes a lot to [pay for] a family.

What do you SUPPORT besides their finances? Their service? Their ambition?

You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.” Galations 5:13.

I truly believe with every fiber of my being that God did not create us to pay the bills. If only we were as concerned with our debt to him.

Please don’t tell me that I will change my mind, that this world will ultimately beat the idealism out of me.

Add perspective. Subtract fear. Multiply gratitude.

And, Lord, please divide this pressure from my volunteer heart.

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