Refueling our social consciousness
A few years back, I had a conversation with a priest who was routinely invited to attend a benefit dinner where he would be recognized for the amount of money his parish raised as part of an annual charitable drive. Each year, his parish collected more than any other in the diocese, yet each year he refused to attend the dinner. His reason was simple: doing charitable work was its own reward, and he didn’t need, or even find appropriate, a pat on the back for a job well done.
This past weekend, I attended that same benefit dinner, where I was among this year’s speakers. And I admit, I too was a little uncomfortable with being recognized for my small part in carrying out the work that Christ has called every one of us to do. But in listening to the other speakers and talking to attendees, I realized that events like this have much more value than the dollar amount they raise for charitable causes.
These types of fundraisers usually bring together a broad spectrum of people, ranging from those who devote their professional and personal lives to full-time work on humanitarian concerns to those who spend a few hours of their free time volunteering on weekends. And regardless of where one falls on that spectrum, it is easy to get discouraged. Despite so many people working so hard to help, poverty is still at an alarming level, as is unemployment. People are still living in terrible conditions, facing mounting injustice, and struggling to make ends meet. There’s so much more work to be done, so many more people to help, that it often seems like an insurmountable challenge. So how can we come together and congratulate one another for our work?
Beneath the awards and applause lies something much more important at these gatherings: a shared commitment to the Gospel. Sure, there are many people still struggling, but when we hear someone speak of their own tremendous resolve in the face of that adversity, it bolsters our own devotion to making a difference. It is encouraging for me to speak with others who are dealing with similar obstacles in their work, yet they continue to press on. We can share ideas, tell stories about our experiences, and learn about new ways that people are making a difference. Even with so much left to be done, we can see progress.
People who are involved in charitable works at any level, even if their inspiration comes from faith, are always susceptible to burnout. Every once in a while, it is important to find a way to recharge our batteries and get back to work with a renewed sense of dedication, and even optimism. It is even OK to get a pat on the back now and then, especially if it serves as a push in the right direction.