Lawrence is a town of just more than 93,000 people, according to the latest figures from the U.S. Census Bureau. Undoubtedly, tens of thousands of those people are kind, compassionate, faithful and concerned about the world we live in.
Those are some pretty good numbers, but they’re not so good that Lawrence’s First United Methodist Church can reliably count on 35 people to show up to staff the church’s popular Jubilee Cafe program that provides a free meal to those who seek one. The church announced last week that the meal program was closing for the summer, and church leaders expressed concern about whether it would reopen next fall.
Truth be told, the meal program — which provided free meals and companionship on Tuesday and Friday mornings — could operate with far fewer than 35 volunteers. But many days it was tough to get the eight to 10 volunteers who are needed for the program to be functional.
It would be easy to say this is sad, disappointing, even pitiful. But most of us would be saying so from inside a glass house. Even so, we should use our glass houses to reflect a bit.
Why do organizations not only in Lawrence but across the country struggle to find volunteers? Why don’t more of us do more? It would be tempting to say that it is a sign of the times. Life has become so busy that volunteering has been put on a back burner. Perhaps that’s true, but it is worth noting that our busy lives come with more conveniences than our ancestors could have dreamed of.
Perhaps it is because we don’t know of the opportunities. Perhaps it is because more of us are in need ourselves. Perhaps it is because we just figure someone else will do it.
Lawrence is blessed to have many fine volunteers who are the lifeblood of many great organizations. If Jubilee Cafe does close for good, it will be a loss, but it is far from the only meal program in Lawrence. Compassion is a hallmark of Lawrence, and the time that was spent on Jubilee Cafe can be reinvested into a new venture that will help others.
To all the volunteers of Jubilee and every other organization that seeks to serve, thank you for your time. For the rest of us, we still have that nagging question: Why don’t we do more? It is a tough question to answer. So tough that perhaps we ought not to spend the time trying to answer it. It is time that may be better spent volunteering.