F. Neil Folks: Blessed are those who volunteer
April 22, 2011
Blessed are those who volunteer … for they shall have their day in the warm sun.
When one voluntarily helps another, one shall receive 10 times back — part of Jesus' Great Commission to mankind. Go serve the least of mine for what you do to them you do unto me.
This is not all about feeding our egos, or that part of the head that wants to be in the driver's seat most of the time. The real power to being a volunteer is helping others without any expectation of enumeration; it is the transformation that occurs within one's spirit, even going deeper than the soul.
The soul journey descends us into the deep and darker recesses of our psyche. The spiritual movement is upward, ascending back into the warm light of the cosmos where we start realizing our relationship in the Creator's greater universe.
It is in helping others that we start to recognize and "experience" the true meaning and understanding of Jesus' statement, "The Kingdom of Heaven that is within you."
Just what is this subtle movement within our spirit that takes place?
Part of this journey is being able to apply to oneself Kenosis, the path of self-emptying love. Kenosis, from the Greek verb kenosein, means to "let go," or "to empty oneself."
This is the word the apostle Paul chooses at the key moment in his celebrated teaching in Philippians 2:9-16 in order to describe "the mind of Christ."
"Rather," Paul says, "he emptied himself, and assuming the state of a slave, he was born in human likeness."
It is this "letting go" of our own needs and desires, becoming "obedient to death" that we attain some likeness of the Great Christ, serving others from a position of a slave. This transforming path is the motion of descent: going lower, taking the lower place, not the higher.
Richard Rohr mentions in his book "On the Threshold of Transformation: Daily Meditations for Men," that there is a difference between "change" and "transformation."
"Change happens when something old dies and something new begins." Change is from outside in, the ego trip; transformation is inside out, the heart (spiritual) trip.
While I'm on this subject, do you know there are some three-plus times more neurons in the heart than there is in the head? A scientific proof.
This is something our ancient ancestors understood, long before modern theology or psychology — the reasoning for letting the heart be your guide.
We've been accustomed to thinking of compassion as a feeling. And so it is in the Bible, "a feeling localized in the abdomen, the bowels or womb, and which is 'being moved by,' a 'feeling with,' as even the Latin roots of the word suggest" (Jesus, A New Vision, Marcus J. Borg).
It is being able to go to the knee, into the slim and muck of the human condition with others, pick them up into our arms and carry them upward into the light.
God most likely has done this for you. Look back right now and see how many tracks are behind you. We are called to do the same — pay it forward.
As Marcus Borg continues to point out, "It is being moved by another's situation, at a level lower than the head or intellect."
It is a compassion coming from deep within the central nervous system where it is said the Great Divine dwells. It is banqueting with the outcasts. Their situations, for the most part, will not improve if we keep our hearts closed to them.
In order to "feel force within," those legendary words from the first "Star Wars" movie, we first must surrender in the spiritual meaning, create a state of heart openness to those around us who need our help. It is not surrender in the normal psychological manner, a capitulation that is considered a sign of weakness.
No, I am not asking you to "roll over and stick your four limbs" up in the air like a dog surrendering to the stronger one. We must clear out all the ego trappings in the heart so God can help us do something about the outer situation. Surrender, as a spiritual act, requires "remaining firm" with the alignment of the heart and mind on the vertical axis.
I attended the Moffat County United Way volunteer appreciation luncheon Wednesday and it was mentioned that there are at least 50 nonprofit agencies in dire need of volunteers.
You say you can't find something to do with your time? You're either not looking or you really are not wanting to be involved in your community. These agencies are begging for help — volunteer with one that fits you the best and learn to "feel the force," the Divine workings, the Divine Mercy, within you at a very deep level.
It will make you feel like life is worth living. Volunteering puts us within the arms and heart of the Great Mystery — what could be better?
The young parents who want to volunteer but have little time because of child sitting costs, well, here is an opportunity for some of us seniors who aren't up to snuff physically to do hard work to offer our services to the younger generation and that relieves them to do the harder work.
I can go on and fill this newspaper with all the possibilities for volunteering opportunities, but I don't think Bryce Jacobson will allow me.
So, to those who want to volunteer, check with the Craig Chamber of Commerce or drop in at United Way and say hello to Corrie Ponikvar.
United Way has agreed to work with the Yampa Valley Senior Task Force to create a place and union between those who need volunteers and those looking for the opportunity to serve.
They both will fix you right up with things to do in our great community. There is something to do in Craig, but you've got to be willing to go out and make yourself present.
Those of us who are on nonprofit boards are not going to come to you because we don't know who you are.
May the force be with you and experience God's love and mercy deep within — the True Transformation, the metamorphosis. I experience this unexplainable compassion deep within myself and I like it.
Helping others in the hour of their need. It strengthens me spiritually as well, a win-win situation.