Do You Volunteer?

Too Busy to Volunteer
Volunteering is a way of life for many people. We derive so much pleasure from sharing our time, energy and resources with those in need. The sight of a grateful smile, gladdens the heart and inspires the soul. It motivates us to volunteer even more.

For many of us, volunteering comes only in our spare time. By spare time I mean after we have filled our quota of down time, leisure time and personal time. Only after we have tended to our needs and provided for our leisure, do we give of ourselves to others.

This results in a drop off in volunteer hours when our lives grow hectic. When something new or unexpected is added to our plate, the first thing we slash is our volunteering hours. This makes sense. There are only so many hours in the day; when our day fills up, there isn’t enough time left for others.

Making Time to Volunteer

But there is another approach. The old saying goes, “if you want something to get done, ask a busy person to do it.” Busy people have time for additional projects because they enjoy being busy. If you add another item to their agenda, it makes them happier, not overburdened. They feel more alive, when they are at work, when they are challenged, when they have lots on their plate.

Busy people don’t know the term, “too much”. If they run out of time, they seek creative ways to stretch their time. They might delegate or recruit, but they don’t back away from a task. They get it done.

The rational person clears space in their schedule to make space for new tasks. The busy person squeezes more out of their schedule to make space for new tasks. Which is healthier?

On the surface, the rationalist is healthier; they don’t overextend themselves. But when you dig deeper you conclude that the busy person has a better perspective on life. The rationalist compromises on what they consider secondary or superfluous tasks, to make space for their needs. The problem is the slippery slope; once on the road toward compromise, it’s hard to stop. Today we cut back on volunteering for others, tomorrow we cut back on helping our mother and before long, there is no room in our lives for anyone. The result is lethargy, boredom, loneliness and often sadness if not depression.

People who stretch to accommodate as much as they can (clearly, we cannot stretch beyond our limits, but our limits are usually looser than we think) are filled with energy, drive and ambition. Their days are full and they feel good about themselves as they find creative ways to get things done.

Time is elastic. It stretches to accommodate many tasks and shrinks to accommodate fewer. If we fill our schedule with many tasks, our days are full. If we pair down the tasks that we don’t feel we can accommodate, our days will still be full, only with fewer tasks. We become laborious; we plod along as we fill our few tasks, and have little to show for the time we invest.

The G-d Factor

A separate dimension enters the equation when we discuss taking on tasks that G-d wants us to take on. When finances grow tight, the first expense we cut is often charity. When we make a commitment to keep kosher and we move away from the kosher grocery store, the first commitment we let go of, is kosher. If we volunteer for a G-dly cause, it is the first thing we jettison when we run out of time. And so, it goes, if we need more space in our wallet or day we let go of G-d’s needs first.

Now think about it. Why don’t we have enough money? Is it because we aren’t making enough money? What does it mean when we say, “I’m making a living”? We don’t make our living, G-d’s makes our living. G-d is in charge of our finances. If we need more money to give our children a Jewish education, it behooves us to put them in a Jewish school and say, dear G-d I am going to need you to give me more money. If we demonstrate commitment to G-d, we give Him reason to take care of our needs.

The same is true of time. The only reason we run out of time is because our day is filled with delays. If we caught every green light, if we reached people over the phone on our first attempt, if our errands and projects went off without complication, we would find ourselves with much more time. And with G-d in charge of these vicissitudes, it is worth our while to prioritize G-d. If we put G-d at the top of our list, we can legitimately turn to Him and say, “dear G-d, I’m going to need you to make more time in my day.