Following my Southern adventures, my attentions were drawn to goings-on back in my home town. For the rest of that week, I had committed to helping out at my church’s vacation Bible school program. I didn’t know exactly what I’d be doing when I first volunteered, but I figured why not? and scrawled my name on the sign-up sheet immediately after the opportunity was announced one Sunday service.
Transitioning into the summer months, I knew I wanted to devote some of my time to volunteering. It always seemed like a good idea–something that would both be a help to those involved as well as personally fulfilling–but I always brushed it off as something not worth squeezing into my already-packed schedule…or maybe I just never really cared to…
But this was the summer. I was going to get involved, lend a hand, and engage myself in a service that I knew would benefit my community. And one of these opportunities just happened to be VBS week at our church.
My first day there, I honestly felt out of place…like the person who completely misses the memo and shows up to a formal gathering in dirt-caked sneakers. And I’m pretty sure that those in charge didn’t exactly know what to do with me or where to put me so I wouldn’t get in the way. I was the cube they had to try to force through a circle hole, and my discomfort was tangible.
The day-camp itself went from noon to about 5:30 and was almost entirely in the hands of three counselors from a nearby Bible camp. And of course, if my lack of necessity wasn’t already apparent enough, it became clear that everything was already planned and totally under control. These guys had their simple cut-and-paste crafts, their action-filled camp tunes, a myriad of games laced with Bible themes (like when parents sneak veggies into their kids’ favorite dishes), and a whole gamut of skits that made the entire clan of elementaries roll on the ground with laughter.
What did they need me for?
So the first couple of days, this state of seeking a definite purpose really became a frustration. I did help out wherever they needed me, of course, but it was obvious that my primary focus would just be interacting with the kids and being another reliable, “inspiring” presence. And right away, I definitely wasn’t feeling too content with that.
By the last day, however, things began to change. I never really got particularly close or chummy with any of the counselors, but I noticed how the relationship seeds I planted with the children from day one were blossoming all of a sudden…or at least…pretty buds were beginning to poke from the soil. From the baby-tooth smiles that would greet me upon arrival, to the fervent persistence that I would join in on some game as a small hand slipped into my own, a trust and fondness began to grow and develop that soon filled in my original gaps of uncertainty. They appreciated me.
And I felt purposeful at last.
But now looking back, I realize just how misguided I was and often am… I mean, is my worth really measured by how many elementary schoolers find me acceptable? Or by the quantity of help and assistance I bring to the table? Do I possess more value every time I complete a task, jotting a mental tally mark after each duty performed? This was clearly my mindset at the start of Mission: VBS. …To add one more thing to my list of do-good endeavors in order that I might deem myself valuable in my own eyes.
But by the conclusion of VBS, I saw how flawed those assessments were…how worthiness and quantity have nothing in common, and that big impacts can emerge from small places. Instead, it’s those little heart things, sometimes–a positive presence or words of encouragement–that can end up leaving the deepest prints when all is said and done.
The final moments of the week were dribbling down, and the time came for me to make my departure. But just before I turned to make my silent leave, the lady in charge of the entire program wrapped me up in a giant, happy-heart embrace. She squeezed me tight, then held my shoulders as she peered into my eyes and told me how absolutely thankful she was that I could be at VBS that week.
And my heart felt golden.