Many years ago I was really impressed with myself when I won two writing contests. “Now,” I told my image in the mirror, “you can honestly call yourself a writer. You can make money. Maybe you’ll even get rich!”
At the same time, I was earnestly praying for direction in my life. “Lord,” I asked over and over again, “what is it You want me to do?” I was willing to take on almost any God-given assignment . . . except writing that wasn’t paid for. I might as well have just told God, “That’s off limits. I’m a professional now, and I expect to be paid for every word I write. ”
For years that was my prayer and my attitude. And then I changed my mind.
In the midst of working on my first book contract, our teenaged son was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. One day we were a happy family of four—mother, father, son and daughter—and the next we were struggling with a nightmare. When we didn’t know how we would get through the next minute, we found ourselves sustained by friends and felt the love of God surrounding us.
Months later, after we lost him, I began writing a column on grief, and I surprised myself by agreeing to do the work for nothing. I was quite a few months into that assignment before it hit me that when I tried to help others, I was also helping myself. And when I got to that point, I realized this was the calling I had prayed for and fought against for years with my stubborn refusal to give my writing away.
In the years since then, I’ve discovered there are no limits to what God calls us to do, and no limits on which of our skills we are called on to use to make a difference in the world. If you find yourself saying, “No way, Lord, I don’t know how, I can’t do that, I’m afraid, I don’t have the time, there’s no way I could do that,” it’s a pretty good bet God is calling you. And whether or not your faith is important to you, donating your professional skills or avocational talents for the public good is a great way to use your time to make the world a better place to live in. That’s true for all of us who inhabit this planet, for the people and plants and animals we share it with, and for the earth itself.
Here’s something else to think about. There are times in most of our lives when we do not have as much money to donate to our churches or other favorite non-profits as we would like. But what we may not think about is that pro bono volunteer hours are significant financial gifts in themselves. If you support an organization, look at it this way: what does the organization need in order to get its message across to the public, and what do they need to fulfill their mission? Then ask yourself whether they you need your professional skills.
If the answer is “yes” and you hear God calling, don’t run because you can’t hide. Listen instead. Summon your courage, and don’t be afraid to work for nothing but satisfaction. You can’t put it in the bank, but on the other hand, nothing can take away the joy you earn by giving.
By Judy Osgood