A friend of mine was looking for practical ways to overcome hopelessness and the vice of sloth. In her research for Catholic-based solutions, she encountered tried and true remedies such as adding frequent confession and adoration to her routine. However, she told me that there was one suggestion that surprised her: volunteer work. She was intrigued but confused. How could volunteering her time to a service project or charity help her overcome sloth and hopelessness?

It took me a moment to realize why she had come to me with this question. When I thought back on my own experiences, I realized that I’d actually been engaged in volunteer work at nearly every point of my life. Whether it was with helping children in grade school, summer camps in high school, spring break service projects in college, or volunteer-based organizations post-college, every single one of those experiences was in some way or the other a life-changing experience. From my own experience with volunteering, I can confidently affirm that YES, it absolutely does effectively combat hopelessness and sloth. How so?

I explained to my friend that volunteering time is other-centered as opposed to sloth which is self-centered and self-serving. One’s entire purpose on those occasions is to serve others, and the joy and healing that it brings is something that can hardly be put into words. As for combatting hopelessness, our gift of self is a gift of hope to others, quite literally an embodiment of hope, an extension of Christ’s hands to others.

Volunteering puts us in a position to set our needs aside and shift our focus to the needs of others. Whether it is volunteering at a soup kitchen, donating our time to help with fundraising for a charity, or volunteering our skills to an organization, the gift of self brings meaning to life. After all, we are made to be gifts to one another, and doing so in volunteer work is a way to put that into practice. It is not uncommon for volunteers to come away feeling fulfilled and enlivened.

On page 37 of The Body Is a Gift, the first book of TOBET’s Level 2 of The Body Matters, we are reminded that by giving our “good and free gifts to others,” we become good gift-givers. This makes us like God and that it brings us happiness. By giving of our time and talents, we engage in the practice of loving our neighbor. “Love is the free self-giving of the heart” (YOUCAT, 402)…and we at TOBET would add, and of the BODY as well. This is why the Catholic Church has not only the spiritual works of mercy but also the corporal as well. We can give of our hearts and our bodies to serve others while simultaneously reminding ourselves that hope does exist in the world. Pope St. John Paul calls it, “hope of everyday”! (TOB 86:6).

Kathleen Ramirez is a University of Dallas alumna and works part-time for TOBET. She enjoys writing and illustrating children’s/young adult books in her free time.

The Body is a Gift, Page 36

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