I signed up to help with our church’s annual Vacation Bible School this year. Again.
And—just like I do every year—I’m wondering why the dickens I volunteered for the madness. Again.
But as I think about it—again—I can tell you why. It’s not because I’m great with kids: I am not the Pied Piper of Hamlin by any stretch of the imagination. It’s not because I love songs-with-dance-moves and themed snacks: trust me. And—perhaps this might surprise you—it’s not because I have three kids that will be participating and I feel the need to watch them and participate with them. It’s definitely not because I have nothing better to do.
The reason I sign up… for the tenth year in a row now… is because of the difference one volunteer made in my life, over thirty years ago. My parents were newly divorced and as is the custom for many kids-of-divorce, we spent alternate weekends and holidays with each parent. My Dad had started going to a church, and during one of the first holiday times we were with him, he signed us up for Holiday Club (as it was known there). It was next-to-free-childcare; it seemed fun, and he had to work. So, we went.
I don’t remember much about that week. I vaguely remember a gaudily decorated hall, and I’m fairly sure there were games that involved screaming as we chased beach balls. I don’t remember a single person’s name, but I do remember this: not long after Holiday Club, I got a letter in the mail from one of the leaders. A real letter. With my name on it. In the mail. With a stamp. For me.
I remember pacing my room as I read, and re-read, it. I remember crying, because she remembered what I’d told her the week before: that my parents were divorced, that it was hard, that adjusting to step-parents and juggled weekends and school stress was difficult. That I was lonely. That I was scared. She remembered and acknowledged those details; she reminded me to trust in God because he cared about me; she said she was praying for me. Her letter was less than a page long, her name signed with a flourish in the bottom right hand corner. It wasn’t much and yet it was everything.
Her care showed me God’s care in a way I’d never seen before. Her seeing me and noticing me in the middle of a crazy week with screaming games and wild distractions made me feel profoundly seen and noticed. She offered me a glimpse of the welcome of heaven, and I was desperate for it.
I wrote back, and I think she wrote me again two or three times before our correspondence dwindled.
But it didn’t have to be a lifetime of correspondence to have made a longlong impact. That first letter was enough. She was a volunteer—possibly a high school kid—and she took the time to show love to a know-it-all kid who was really hurting beneath her sassy exterior.
It’s been more than thirty years, but I think of that Volunteer every year. I think what a difference it made—and how she’ll never know—and when that sign-up clip board gets passed around asking who wants to help out with VBS, I write my name on it. Even though I’m not fabulous with kids. And even though themed snacks and decorating are not my thing.
I sign up because children are people, and I was a hurting little person once and a volunteer saw me as a person and loved me. I may not be great at children’s ministry, but I can love a little people for a couple of hours once a year. And who knows what difference it may make?
To all you brave, wonderful people who signed up on that clip board and who will be playing the games, serving the snacks, sitting in small groups, and talking with kids this holiday: I wanted to say thank you in advance. And Bless You. Yours is Holy Work, although you may never know what difference you made.
But I just wanted to say: you do make a difference.
Photo credit: cbcphotos (Flickr Creative Commons) / edited by BL using Canva.