Is it okay to skip charity work if we’re busy? Here’s how to help when it seems like there just aren’t enough hours in the day.
In a recent talk on helping the needy, Pope Francis said that true Christian charity stems from giving our time, not simply making charitable donations. This might come as, well, an added bit of pressure for women who are already juggling families and jobs, and it might be tempting to push that piece of papal advice out of our minds, at least for now.
But Pastor Laura Patrick of the Rock Church in Queens, New York says that with a little planning, even frazzled mothers and women with demanding jobs can make time for volunteering. It’s about making service to others a priority.
Pastor Laura herself tends to spend about 12 hours a day at her church as she preaches, takes care of administrative duties, coordinates donations, teaches classes, and assists with a variety of events from dinners to theater productions. But she’s hesitant to admit the breadth and depth of her service because she’s so in awe of the other women in her congregation.
Prioritizing the to-do list
“Being a mom doesn’t slow the women here down from volunteering,” she says. “I have women who come here every single day. They will bundle their kids up, even in the wintertime, and put them on the bus or subway. They’re some of the first ones here in the morning and some of the last ones to leave at night.”
Pastor Laura cites one woman, who was a doctor in her home country of the Philippines, as an example of someone who puts her heart into action, despite competing items on her to-do list:
“Right now she’s working in a doctor’s office as she studies for the exams she needs to take to get her [American] certifications,” she says. “She’s also working on applying for her residency, which she should be doing next year. On top of that, she helps with our Filipino service and volunteering however else she can, even if she’s coordinating things over email. She stops by the church every day, sometimes just to drop by for half an hour, an hour, but she’s here.”
Combining charity, sociability, and family
While such dedication is admirable, the question you may have on your mind is, how can I be a more avid and available volunteer?
“It comes down to dedication and personal conviction,” says Pastor Laura. “There’s always time because there’s always something you can cut back on.”
For many women, she believes one of the things you skim time from is social time outside of volunteering.
“Cut back on social-type activities that don’t serve others, like going to restaurants and the movies,” she says. “Nobody wants to be alone, so many people use these activities as opportunities to get together with other people, but you can do the same thing through service. In volunteering, we can find joy and pleasure on a whole other level, knowing that we brightened somebody’s day.”
She suggests going to dinner with an older mom who may not see her kids very often, going with a group of friends to visit seniors at retirement homes to keep them company, or buying groceries for a family that needs the help but would never ask for it.
“You can do these things anonymously,” says Pastor Laura. “You’re not always going to get a thank you but you don’t need a thank you.”
You can also take your children along to kid-friendly places, such as your church, that need an extra hand. Just be sure your little ones have games or books to keep them entertained, or find a volunteer activity you can do together.
“Volunteering is such a good life lesson for your kids to learn,” she says. “It’s important for them to learn when they’re young because it’s going to be harder when they’re older, but they’ll see how much fulfillment it gives them.”
And how much fulfillment it gives you, too.
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