A recent news article confirmed what we’ve known for a long time: that volunteering is good for us. It’s good for our mental health; it also brings us stability, improves our self-esteem, reduces loneliness and helps us learn new skills. For many, it can be a gateway to paid employment, which in turn has its own benefits. It also helps the economy: some studies have put the value at over £50bn, making the voluntary sector as big as the energy industry.
Among the range of social and practical activities that can improve the wellbeing of people is gardening. The physical benefits are pretty obvious – digging or raking a lawn for 30 minutes requires as much energy as a 2km (1.2-mile) run – and so it should come as no surprise it can help reduce the risk of heart disease, obesity and cancer but even gentle gardening had an impact in much less obvious ways, the report said. It could improve balance, thus helping reduce falls in the elderly, and tackle anxiety and stress.
Christians have known for 1000s of years that helping others brings blessings to ourselves. Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than receive,” Acts 20:35. Our church aim is ‘shepherding the flock to make disciples’ and it is as we help other people that we are also helped. It is quite a paradox that in being a servant to others we feel better about ourselves. The supreme example of this at work is Jesus who chose to come to our world and gave himself for us and is now exalted to the highest place.
As an example of what I’m talking about: a friend of Leyla’s (my daughter-in-law) was between accommodation and asked if she could stay with us, we were happy to have her and in helping her and getting to know her better our lives have been enhanced too.
If you would like to enjoy the benefits that come from volunteering we have many opportunities: gardening, refreshments on Sunday, cleaning, flower arranging, knitting, welcoming people to church, offering hospitality and helping asylum seekers. If we each helped in one way everyone’s life would benefit.
In helping others let’s remember that we are ultimately serving God, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as though you were working for the Lord and not for people. Remember that the Lord will give you as a reward what he has kept for his people.” Colossians 3:24, 25.