TOPEKA, Kan. -- Because my wife was receiving the "Outstanding Volunteer Award" here Friday from InterHab at its annual awards ceremony, I came along as her proud husband and cheerleader.
For instance, InterHab is a statewide organization in Kansas made up of agencies that provide services for people with developmental disabilities. Marcia's oldest son, my stepson Chris, receives such services from an agency called Johnson County Developmental Supports (JCDS), and Marcia currently chairs the Friends of JCDS organization.
It was because of her great work with the Friends group that InterHab was honoring her.
But what drives people to become engaged in such essentially secular work?
Well, in Marcia's case it was because of Chris. And as she acknowledged in her brief remarks, she might never have even heard of JCDS had it not been for Chris.
So people's personal experiences and needs often cause them to become engaged in groups and causes.
But I think motivation goes deeper than that in many cases. For many people (though not all), the motivation has something to do with the ethics and the moral behavior to which their religious faith calls them.
One of the five pillars of Islam, for instance, has to do with charity. In the Jewish tradition there's the tikkun olam (repair the world) call. And in Christianity, adherents are urged to respond to "the least of these," meaning people in need, as if they were responding to Christ himself.
Acting out of any such religious foundation does not require that the agencies for which one volunteers or to which one donates have a religious agenda. Thus, four or five members of my congregation, including Marcia, are active with Friends of JCDS for various reasons.
In some sense, faith motivates and provides the source of many of the volunteers and donations that many secular agencies require if they are to work at all. Faith, in other words, can be thought of as a deep reservoir that waters all the world.
(In the photo here today you see Marcia and Chris on the right along with Janelle Roblez, an "emerging artist," as they're called, who created the pottery plate given to Marcia as part of her award.)
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BE DIFFERENT BUT DON'T CHANGE
"God is not afraid of new things," Pope Francis told the Catholic Church this weekend when Pope Paul VI was beatified. God may not be, but, of course, people often are. Sometimes with good reason, but often for no defensible reason at all. Which is why change frequently comes too late to faith communities of all varieties.
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P.S.: My latest Presbyterian Outlook column now is online here.