Volunteering – it’s all about you, because it’s all about them!

I was sitting at home worrying about the usual first-world things – you know, debt, offspring, mortgage, work, where my next quid was coming from – and the solution hit me like the proverbial bolt of lightning: do something for someone else!
It sounds counter-intuitive, and it certainly goes against all the doctrines of “success” and “self-actualisation” that dominate just about everything these days from cradle to grave. But I’m a believer in God, and if I’ve learned one thing about Him over the last few years, it’s that He never gives you the solution you want, but if you submit to Him, He will give you the solution you need!
The self-actualisers don’t know what they’re missing out on!
No, volunteering hasn’t contributed to the payment of one bill or the resolution of one material problem, but what it has achieved is to put everything else in perspective. The truism that no matter how poorly we’re doing, there’s someone worse-off, is almost a cliché nowadays. But it’s certainly worth remembering. It keeps us thankful for what we have.
I’ve spent money and time volunteering, but the amazing thing is that I’m not feeling it financially. Somehow, I keep finding the time and earning just enough money. I’m also finding something else that no-one can put a price on: good people!
What’s more, volunteering has brought to the fore certain traits I had as a young bloke but had buried. When I first started at Yarra Junction unloading the Second Bite truck and engaging in the sourcing of food from other places before the regular crowd of around 60 people come in and take what they need, I half-dreaded the idea of engaging with people on those terms. After all, you’re not really sure who’s going to come through the door. I’d done it as a younger man when I worked in welfare, but the experience was wasted on a foolish youth.
For the last 20 years in particular, I’d been a freelance writer, glad that I’d left Dandenong and its problems, and the politics of the welfare “industry” behind. I hadn’t become disconnected with people – my work ensured my life was heavily populated – but most of the people I met were “successful” by the world’s standards. Many were famous. I’d forgotten that I used to enjoy just rolling my sleeves up and getting the job done for, and often alongside, those who need it; laughing and bantering with them; leading them when necessary but never for a second feeling as though I was any better than them; always remembering that there, but for the grace of God …
The fact is, back then as a youngster, when I put my mind to it, I wasn’t bad at it (the work, not the politics!).
Not long after I began at the LinC Fresh Food program on Fridays, we began providing a luncheon on Mondays, which we titled the “Junction Function”. It was begun by Adam Killeen, the local pastor and counsellor.
The idea is that leftover food from the LinC Fresh Food program is taken home on the weekends, recipes are concocted, food is cooked up, and around five of us bring the finished product to the Yarraburn Centre in Yarra Junction. Occasionally we need to throw in a few of our own ingredients to get the recipe we want, but no-one minds. It’s been a gratifying experience. Somewhere between 25 and 50 people come along, eat and enjoy the company of other members of their community. We’ve watched the dynamic in the room change as they’ve got to know each other. People are a lot less tentative. They share their stories. Networks of support have developed before our eyes. We love seeing the old familiar faces every week, and we enjoy seeing new ones.
I also have fantastic friends who come along to the Junction Function and help when they can, and it’s added a new dimension to our friendships. All that goodwill is contagious! I just love the people I work with, those I work for and those I serve. Every Friday and Monday, I see the impact volunteering has on a community of people – people who probably didn’t know themselves what it was they needed until it was provided for them. Much like me, really!
As for those first-world problems of mine – well, they haven’t been removed from me. I’ve been removed from them! They no longer get inside me like they used to. The space they used to occupy is now taken up with much more important matters. Try it. You’ll understand what I mean. It’s more than a great opportunity. It’s a privelege.

Written by Bob Drane

Photo: Bob Drane with son Robert, Woori Yallock CFA volunteer.

1 reply
  1. Paige Ille
    Paige Ille says:

    What an inspiring read.. I have found myself in need of the support of LinC during these unpredictable covid times like many.. gulping back my pride and instead feeling grateful and worthy..
    Things are definitely put in front of us on this life journey.. giving back by volunteering is perhaps my next leap..
    Thank you again for sharing your story and for helping people like me.. my heart and eyes are open 🙏


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