Do you ever find yourself looking at a situation and saying, “they should…” As in, “THEY SHOULD offer Bible study,” or “THEY SHOULD increase the type size on the projections?”
Did you know there are entire websites devoted to “they should?”
There is also a choir of critics, paid and unpaid, standing on the sidelines, offering unsolicited advice and opinions on the improvement of most things. And yet, they rarely offer their own tangible action to create a better situation. They cling to the YOU SHOULD, and rarely offer the “I WILL.”
Most of us find it easy share our advice, but do we share it with someone who can actually make a change? As in, listening to yourself and then offering to perform that service? Instead of, “they should offer Bible study,” try “I will help organize a Bible study class.” And if you WANT a larger type size on the overhead projections, offer to type it up. This can reach beyond your religious organization; if you want that traffic signal or improved signage in your neighborhood, go to the council meetings and engage with your local representatives.
One individual’s initiative can make a difference in the world.
How does this relate to faith?
In Judaism, day-to-day behaviors carry spiritual potential. The most ordinary, mundane activity can further our spiritual conversation with the Divine; cooking, clearing litter in a public area, even mowing the yard or offering transportation for a family in need. Faith expects both internal and external expressions. Not only wearing a Star of David or a cross, but also acting on your faith by improving a situation. This is so much more than prayer and going to services; it’s improving yourself and your personal approach to the Divine. The conscious choice of taking action with visible results is one avenue of improving the world, no matter how small you think it might be. Working locally on any topic, whether it’s a Bible study, serving with your religious organization, seeing to the educational or mentoring needs of others, or just picking up litter as you walk through the park and disposing of it properly.
“THEY SHOULD clean this up” can so easily change to “I will help pick this up.” The people walking behind you will see a better place, for your efforts.
Volunteerism is an expression of an action-based faith. It expects a reaching out beyond yourself, and engagement with your community, working to improve it for a common good. This can be organizing a class, scheduling a group outing, or even tidying up after a gathering.
Some might hesitate, thinking they are not good enough, smart enough or patient enough to help. But, the gift of your time will have a positive impact. Most religious organizations and communities have many needs, and rarely enough people to fulfill them. Often, a number of the volunteer team have a full plate of demands on their time, with family and jobs. But their faith drives them to dedicate just a bit more of themselves, to contribute to their community good.
This is not writing a check and being done with it.
This is the hands on, heart-forward giving of themselves, answering the needs they see. Large or small. Bringing the snacks for a service gathering, or walking the trash out after the service gathering.
In the world of action-based faith, answering the “They should” with “I will” improves so many situations. This is servant-leadership. The sharing of yourself and shifting approach from expecting someone else to take an action, to being the individual who takes the action, reaching out to fill the need. As you look at the world around you, where can you take an action, today, that will make this world a bit better?
Edie Yakutis works with Ritual Life at Temple Solel in Fort Mill. Contact her firstname.lastname@example.org.