Words are shifty things—they morph. Time messes with their meaning.
For instance the word meat used to mean all food; but now it means just edible animal product.
In Roman times addicts were debtors who sold themselves into slavery to the people to whom they owed money. But by the 1600s its definition broadened to mean enslavement to someone or some practice.
Then look what happened to the word awful. In the 1300s awful originally meant inspiring wonder and was a short version of full of awe. But now…well, it’s awful what happens to some words.
So, in light of languages ability to morph, I would like to nominate a couple of words for a meaning makeover—an upgrade, a lift, a redo.
Look at the words volunteer and amateur. See how they shrink in the shadows of a word like professional—which is loaded with greater perceived value and prestige. But let’s reexamine. A volunteer chooses to enter into service of his or her own volition, free will and without pay. The word amateur comes from the Latin word “amo” which means to love. Amateurs are the ones who do something for the pure raw love of it!
For the love of children, all across the world this week, volunteers and amateurs will show up to run children’s programs in churches, Sunday School classes and mid-week ministries.
Because she cares, a young mom will hurriedly feed boxed mac and cheese to her own kids so she can make it to church this Wednesday night to grease the skids of the children’s ministry at church.
A man will rush home from work, wishing he had more time to prepare his lesson for the children he will shepherd before the day is through. He hopes he’s doing enough.
Everywhere this week people will turn down invitations to a night out with friends to keep their regular commitment to the kids at church. Instead, they will drive the church bus to pick up children in outlying neighborhoods and drop them off for kids’ programs at church. They will greet and register children with welcoming smiles and high fives. They will lead games and sing silly songs to delight children. As they teach and listen, they will take children into their hearts and surround them with prayer and care. Then they will top it all off with ice cream or cookies and candies. Then they will repeat it all again the next week.
And more. This week global volunteers will take hope into slums, refugee camps and places unnamed but all sharing the common characteristic of danger. They will reach out to kids who are hungry, oppressed and forgotten by an achy world. They will meet resistance, intimidation and threat… all to help kids come to know, love and serve Jesus.
Volunteers are my heroes. They are the secret sauce that brings hope to this achy world. They are the unmatched global force of love and caring. That’s why the word volunteer needs to include the idea of being held in high regard. Weekly, these amateurs bring it all…their hearts, their enthusiasm, their dedication and their high prioritization of their time and focus.
So let’s morph the word volunteer to mean hero—for that’s what these people actually are. A million thanks to you volunteers. And I literally mean a million! Soak in my words as an enormous appreciation from me for the more than 400,000 Awana volunteers across the globe who work with 3.5 million children every week. Thanks for giving your heart, your life, your all. I hold you in high esteem!
Your awesome faithfulness, enthusiasm, dedication, love and in some cases bravery is so enormous it can’t even be measured.
If you’re a volunteer, take this appreciation into your heart.
And, if you know another hero who needs to be thanked…pass this along when you tell them you couldn’t agree more.
Or if you’re not yet a volunteer…think of investing your life for something you will love…open your heart wide and become a volunteer.