World Youth Day was an experience that, when you ask my team mates and myself, was amazing and so frustrating and difficult at the same time. It’s an experience that you are so glad you did, and yet as you’re experiencing it, sometimes it was hard to see the pleasure. But the beauty of such situations is that this is exactly where the opportunity for virtue can grow.
Unlike the other pilgrim stories you may hear, mine may be a bit different, as I was a volunteer, and was designated a team and duties.
Instead of attending events, my week was monitoring an empty carpark with my team mates, randomly helping people with directions on the street, helping those with disabilities and simply showing people where the bathrooms were. I noticed and learnt three really beautiful and simple things from this experience that I thought to share in the hope it may help others.
#1 Volunteering can not be a ‘ME’ experience.
Volunteering by its very nature is to help others. It requires humility and a willingness to serve. If that is taken out of context, your volunteering experience is going to be pretty awful for yourself and for those around you.
The famous quote from C.S. Lewis came to mind, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.” (Mere Christianity)
Honestly, the less you think about yourself, the more joy will come from the experience.
#2 When you volunteer, you’ll probably be TOTALLY overqualified and that is a beautifully humbling experience.
You’ll be fulfilling a task that needs to be done, but I bet you’ll have so much more capacity and so much more to give than what is being asked of you. But guess what, all is good and holy. There is such graces in the menial tasks, and if you don’t do it, some other overqualified person will have to do it instead. There is also such beauty in merely encountering someone with a smile and a capacity to help with whatever is possible. Being apart of such a capable team doing such menial tasks was such a humbling experience, and I learnt to see it as a real gift, a place to encounter simple joy, and sometimes provide a situation of sanctification.
#3 When you volunteer, you MUST let Jesus take the wheel. Simply be the instrument.
I have a long epic story of how I helped three injured women on the final camp out amidst 1.5 million people. I won’t bore you with the details, but what I can say is I had no idea how the evening would turn out for them, but I was adamant to help them and I knew Christ wouldn’t abandon them, though I didn’t have the solution. Through MANY prayers under my breath, a sense of hopelessness in myself, a clarity that God put me in this situation for a reason and a determination in the constancy of the Lord, those women received a little miracle and a beautiful evening. I was the instrument – NOT the instigator, and I acknowledge that fully. I still marvel at the event weeks later and give our Lord full credit. God always provides when we need it. He taught me that (again), and I am SO grateful.
In the spirit of World Youth Day, I urge us all to consider volunteering more. See where and how we can help in our parishes and community, maybe overseas, or at special events like I did. Consider how you can help in big or small ways, even if it’s nothing epic or world-changing. If it’s anything like my experience, you might be hot and sweaty, tired, frustrated, and overwhelmed at times, but I can bet you will make wonderful friends, and be blessed with some precious and ‘pinch-me’ moments like no other!
Written by Grace Feltoe
Grace Feltoe is the social media and marketing manager for Virtue Ministry and the Living Fullness Podcast. She is also a sacred liturgical musician, and founder and director of Gloria Dei – The Musica Sacra Project. She loves theology, apologetics and her faith, particularly late at night to the detriment of her sleep, and is currently living in Portugal, Europe.