Service is joy

A therapeutic riding assistant helps Matt get ready to ride. Near Williamsburg, Virginia, April 2005.

A therapeutic riding trainer helps Matt get ready to ride. Near Williamsburg, VA, April 2005.

“I slept and I dreamed that life is all joy. I woke and I saw that life is all service. I served and I saw that service is joy.”Kahlil Gibran

One of the great things about any sort of volunteer work is meeting people who care about other people and the world in general.  Working alongside others in a group effort creates a sense of community not found elsewhere.  If you find yourself feeling low or blue during the winter months, think about joining in a volunteer effort at your church or through a service organization.

During the cold weather, assistance for homeless people and animals may be in greater demand, and the elderly or people with disabilities often need additional help at home with errands or meals.  Children struggling in school may need tutoring, or Sunday School classes may need teachers. Or you may simply know someone personally who could use your help, outside of any formal agency.

As Gibran’s quote implies, the rewards of such efforts may not be apparent until you try it.  But in my experience, when I take part in some sort of service activity, I’m always glad that I did.  I hope you will be, too!

One year ago today

Faithfulness to a small task


  1. Jack

    In my struggle with alcohol addiction a number of years ago, I was told that I would only stay clean if I became willing to help another do the same thing when it was my turn. So it is by no virtue that I help…I help because not to is to die. My friend Harry that posts regularly here is an unknown, unmet mentor, as are so many others who give that they too might find the joy of self-sacrifice. As Spurgeon says in today’s Evening devotion, “Let me be as the bullock which stands between the plough and the altar, to work or to be sacrificed; and let my motto be, “Ready for either.”

    • Wow, Jack, what a fantastic quote! I really appreciate your sharing with us about your recovery. Years ago in Northern California I had a friend who fought a courageous battle with addiction. Every time she would relapse, she would pick herself up and go onward with new determination. Though my personal struggles were on a different front (mostly having to do with the continual challenges related to our son’s disabilities) her resolve was a real light to my path. It is a joy to have you and Harry and others here, providing hope and encouragement to all of us who struggle with various difficulties. I do think your words parallel the words of Jesus in Matthew 10:30 and 16:25, “anyone who wants to save his life will lose it, and who loses it for my sake will find it.” Thanks so much for being here and sharing your life with us.

  2. Karen Hamilton

    Julia, what a wonderful picture of Matt. Your blog today was right on the mark. Volunteering is a blessing. I have had the opportunity to do volunteer work for 20 years. I received more joy watching students pass their math test because they received a little extra help from volunteers. I now work with Hospice and I see the relief in caretaker’s eyes when a volunteer comes in just to let them get some rest. “Their comment is, “you are a blessing”. When in reality it is I who received the blessing just from being there.

    • Karen, one of the most mystical things about any sort of service, one of the hardest things to explain, is how it transforms into something that changes us much more than the people we are seeking to help. I’ve found that when I try to talk about it, as about any sort of giving, it sounds fake and clichéd, as if we are saying what we think we are supposed to say. It’s something that can only be discovered through experience, I think. That’s why I connected so much with Gibran’s quote here; it describes so succinctly the process I go through again and again, thinking how I want to do one thing, but MUST do another, and then finding that what I wanted was hidden inside what I had to do. Thanks so much for being here with us! Your live is a blessing to so many!

  3. Sheila

    Julia, I acted today, on calling a “animal rescue- no kill” shelter in our area, knowing it’s a place to start with such great need for supplies and volunteers. I really hope that I can do this WITHOUT acquiring a dog! “I think I can, I think I can!” 🙂

    • Sheila, bless you – you have pinpointed my greatest reservation about working in a shelter, something I’ve thought of doing often. I’m not sure I could take the emotional stress of not being able to adopt all of them. Before we got Pasha we went to several shelters, looking (unsuccessfully, as it turned out) for a small dog; we couldn’t have a big one because we didn’t know where Jeff’s career might take us and didn’t want to limit our housing options. It just killed me to see all the dogs. I wanted to adopt all of them and it was painful to see how eager they were for attention. I hope to eventually get over my “all or nothing” mentality and realize that working in a shelter giving them even a bit of attention would be better than none. But till then, I am SO HAPPY that you and others are willing to do it! Keep us posted on how it goes! Salty would be proud. 🙂

  4. Ann

    You’ll never know how many people you have helped with your blog.


    • Ann, what a wonderful thing to say! You made my night. Thank you! 🙂 🙂 🙂

  5. merry

    Oh, Julia…what a precious picture of Matt. Thanks for sharing with us. I enjoy volunteering and have a hard time saying no. Because of health issues, I must limit myself. Today I mostly volunteer at my church’s clothes closet, help a friend in a nursing center, And lead an adult s/s class. Last August, while helping young mothers find school clothes at clothes closet, two pre-teen boys came in and asked if we had some jeans and tee shirts in their size…it was my pleasure to help them find jeans and shirts for school.
    I like helping others…

    • Merry, it sounds as if you do more than a lot of people with no health problems are doing! I think it’s wonderful that you enjoy these things. I’m sure that, within limits, being involved can help us all stay young and healthier than we would be sitting at home all day every day. I think it would be great fun to help kids find clothes for school, knowing that they would not have to worry about how to pay for them. When I was growing up, I and almost everyone I knew wore at least a few of what we called “hand-me-downs” and I never minded it. It seemed like a wise use of resources to me, and it still does! So I’m glad people are still sharing clothes with each other!

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