The thing about volunteering that I really liked so much is how it takes one’s focus away from themselves and puts it on others. I’ve always wanted to volunteer consistently for something, and when I was in college it was easier because it was a part of what we need to do for school to get our grades up. When I started working, it got a little bit harder, because I had to go out of my way to volunteer, and I always felt like I don’t have enough time to take that longer route for volunteering.
I became a Cornerstone tutor only this school year, and it all started with a heartache. I’ll spare you with all the drama about that. Let me just say that it’s true when people say that heartaches can make you do things you’ve never done before just so you can fill that hole that the ache is digging in your heart. I used to hate to admit to that, that it took a sad story for me to start moving and doing something, but I realized that we all get called through different circumstances.
So ever since August of 2013, I woke up early every Saturday, rode a tricycle, a jeep and a bus to our sector’s school, and tutored kids. I’m not really good with kids since I’m the youngest in the family and I don’t have little cousins or nieces or nephews to take care of and play with. I wasn’t sure what I was doing, exactly, but I prayed that whatever I lacked, God would fill. And that it wouldn’t be so bad. Like I said, I wasn’t good with kids.
Pretty soon, I started looking forward to my early Saturday mornings. It was so nice to start the weekend doing something for someone else, even if sometimes I have no idea what I was doing. Sometimes I danced. Sometimes I had to lead the prayer. Sometimes I had to struggle from not having enough sleep from the previous night because of work. Sometimes, I had to tell my friends that I had to skip a Friday night gimmick because I have to go to a Cornerstone session the next day. But I looked forward to those Saturday sessions, and I had fun. It was fun knowing new people, and playing with the kids and teaching them something that I really love to do: reading. And I’ve learned that sometimes it doesn’t matter if I don’t know what I’m really doing, as long as I am willing to do them. The small things really count in things like this.
But they say sometimes, familiarity breeds contempt. Or at least, when you’ve gone and done something for so long (even if it wasn’t really so long yet), you start feeling lazy, or less motivated to go. You start of thinking of excuses like, “Well the others don’t go there anyway, so maybe I can skip this”, or “Maybe I can just sleep in today because it’s so cold and they can do things without me”. There are some days when we just don’t want to show up. On the first Cornerstone Saturday of 2014, I almost skipped going because of those reasons above, plus I was feeling a little under the weather. I ended up still going, though, because I had somewhere to be later that afternoon, too, and I thought it would be unfair if I skip the morning and then go to my appointment in the afternoon when I wasn’t really burning with fever or anything of that sort.
We had guests from YFC Oceania who were there for an immersion as part of their Great Adventure Tour that morning. There weren’t a lot of us tutors then, but there were a lot of them, so we had extra help during the values formation part and in the tutoring session itself. It was interesting watching them play and interact with the kids. Some of them can barely speak fluent Filipino, and the kids weren’t really that adept with English, but they still understood each other. I’m not sure who had more energy that day — the kids, or the YFCs.
The YFCs were all thankful that they got to share some time with the Cornerstone kids. Most of them said that this experience made them realize how blessed they were because they had good education, and how blessed they were to experience this and share a bit of themselves to the kids. Some of them realized that God was really calling them to serve children, and it warmed my heart to hear that. But most of all, they were more than thankful to see God through these children in the short span of time that they spent with them.
What really struck me the most after all of this is how I realized how much I was blessed in a different way. Yes, I know I was blessed to have good education, to be able to read whatever I want and to understand them. I was blessed that I got to be a tutor, and I always thought the kids were a big blessing to me. But that Saturday, I realized how blessed I was to be in a place where God could use me to bless to others. It makes me more thankful to be where I am, to have access to programs like Cornerstone, and yes, even thankful for all the things from last year that led me to spend my Saturday mornings in Pinaglabanan Elementary School.
Volunteering is really a blessing, and being a Cornerstone tutor is one of my biggest blessings in the previous year. However, it’s easy to just think of what we receive when we volunteer, of how we get blessed by going out of our way to teach and spend time with people who need our help. I think it’s another thing to realize how blessed we are to be used by God as a sign of His grace to other people as well, to be in a place where you are not just blessed but can also be a blessing.
Sometimes this means singing and dancing in front of a class, even if you never did it before. Maybe it means skipping that Friday night out, and waking up really early on a weekend. But most of the time, I think it just means showing up. :)
* Photos c/o Jenny Pevidal