In a country where recent statistics show three out of five of us are suffering from loneliness, I’ve seen one thing consistently lift people up — and no, it’s not prayer — it’s service. Somehow, when we do something for someone else, we’re infused with hope that we, as individuals, can make a difference. It can happen when we give useful advice to a co-worker. It can happen when we stop to help someone fix a flat tire on the side of a road. It can happen when we climb a ladder to rescue a stranded kitten and return it to its distraught owner. Any time we do anything that helps another person, it helps us connect to others and recognize the power we have to improve the world we share.
Volunteerism is an often suggested but rarely utilized remedy for loneliness. Some of us think we just don’t have time — but science says two to three hours of volunteering a week will change our lives. Volunteering can help you develop new skills, make friends, increase self-confidence, find a sense of purpose, and have fun. And volunteers working through well-established organizations can complete tasks that would otherwise go undone, resulting in measurable improvements in a community.
Most religious organizations offer a variety of ways to volunteer time, talent and treasure, but the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has taken it one step further. They’ve established an organization that anyone can use as a resource for finding a perfect-fit volunteer opportunity — and you don’t have to subscribe to any particular faith tradition to participate!
Ray Hendershot, a long-time member who has served in leadership, explains that scripture is the reason volunteerism is so important to people of his faith tradition.
As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, we’re taught that we are spiritual children of God, and our physical body comes from our parents. Our spiritual body and physical body are joined together in this life and will be reunited after death in the resurrection. As children of God, it’s our belief that we are to help each other. When Jesus Christ was upon the Earth, he was asked a question by a lawyer, “And who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:29). Jesus taught the parable of the good Samaritan, which illustrates for each of us that our neighbor is anyone in need, even the stranger (Luke 10:25-37). In the Book of Mormon, which we understand to be Christ’s teachings to the people in the Americas, it’s said that “when you are in the service of your fellow beings, ye are only in the service of your God” (Mosiah 2:17).
Our Church has established an organization known as “JustServe” to help us and our community provide service to others in need. On our website, people can look for ways to be in service, and organizations can add projects they’d like help with. The listing is provided at no charge and with no obligations, other than the organization is required to comply with the guidelines listed on the website. These guidelines include not seeking monetary donations. Anyone is welcome to sign up to volunteer. In addition to physical participation in activities, some volunteer projects involve donations of clothing, food and miscellaneous items.
The website, JustServe.org, lists hundreds of projects in the Pikes Peak region. An individual or a group of individuals in the community can find a project as close as 5 miles from home — or even work from home — doing something they’re comfortable doing. The goal is to make our community a better place for all who live here.
Ahriana Platten is founder-executive director of In Good Faith, leads Unity Spiritual Center and speaks around the country on the topics of interfaith and intercultural understanding.
Join the conversation at ingoodfaithconversations.org.