By Amy Schill, Assistant Director Volunteers and AmeriCorps
Many Reasons, One Goal
In my 17 years working with One-Year CAP Volunteers and AmeriCorps Members as a volunteer and an employee, I have been inspired by the faith, compassion, and service of the hundreds of individuals I’ve served alongside. Our volunteers come from many different backgrounds and will tell you many different reasons why they choose a year of service. Some have a personal connection to Appalachia, some are excited for an opportunity to live their faith, some are fulfilling a lifelong dream to live in community, and some are looking to test the waters of a particular type of work before deciding on a career path. Most will tell you they are responding to a call to serve, a call that compels us to love one’s neighbor—no matter the cost.
Uncertain Times Bring Clarity
You’re unlikely to ever hear “Oh, I couldn’t find a job,” or “Well, I’m retired, but can’t really afford to travel like I wanted.," as reasons that a person chooses a year of service. And yet, we know that we tend to see more volunteer applications in times of high unemployment and economic uncertainty that in times of prosperity. So, are our volunteers really not so self-sacrificial? Is the “invisible hand” merely sorting us all into market equilibrium? Somehow, I doubt it. No, a bad economy doesn’t motivate anyone to volunteer who hasn’t received that call. There are no economic circumstances under which moving across the country, living with strangers, and receiving only enough for basic living expenses is the “rational” choice. But I think what times of economic uncertainty do allow for is the discernment of that calling in an environment with fewer distractions and less noise to drown out God’s voice. As a senior in college, I knew I wanted to serve for a year and never applied for jobs. But if I had been in a high-demand career field with recruiters knocking down my door? Had my family and popular culture been trying to convince me of the “smart” thing to do? That could have been enough to cloud my call. Oddly enough, uncertainty in one realm offered clarity in what really mattered to me.
Answering the Call
We’re in a time now of great uncertainty economically, politically, and socially. We don’t know when the current turmoil will end and how our country will look different on the other side. Now may seem a scary time to commit to a year of service. It is, and in some ways, it’s always a scary time to answer a call to serve. But in this time when we are being asked to sacrifice our comfort, our livelihoods, our freedom for others, does that call to service resonate with you? In this time when we are asked to be community-minded, are you seeking a community to live and grow with? In this time when we are being asked to redefine the very meaning of church, are you seeking to live your faith in a new way? Now may be the perfect time to volunteer. Stop. Listen. Follow where you are led. If you’re being led to CAP, we’d love to talk about the difference you can make in the communities we serve.