by Rev. Bob Johnston
March 26, 2017
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His knocking was always gentle as if he didn’t wish to intrude. When others knocked at my door, it was always louder.
When I served as police chaplain, local officers used to pick me up for a ride-along. Their door-banging was appropriately authoritative and easy to recognize. Neighbours have also learned to knock enthusiastically and repeatedly to ensure they’d be heard by aging ears not quite as functional as before.
Rev. Bob Johnston
His knocking always came in the frigid darkness of a February evening. Friends and family, even two gently persistent Jehovah’s Witnesses, mostly made their front porch appearances in the brightness of daytime and certainly in better weather.
I can still picture Bill Verkerke at my front door, well past eighty years of age. I always hastened to invite him in to take shelter and find warmth against some snow-filled, blustery streamer roaring over us from across the icy Lake. A small man, Bill would stand in our front hall, red-nosed and glasses steamed, as he pulled from his plastic bag a receipt book. He was making his annual pilgrimage down our mostly deserted side street to canvass for the Heart and Stoke Foundation.
He always called me “Mr. Johnston” even though he had spent more years on this earth than I had and I only knew him as “Bill.’”
Other canvassers were more assertive because they were working for a commission. One pushes me to switch my gas supplier; others to have my drive paved, my lawn aerated or my house painted. Bill just politely inquired whether I wished to give to the cause he represented.
In his last years of neighbourhood canvassing, Bill’s hand would shake as he wrote out my receipt. Trudging through the snow and painfully climbing those two front steps, even with the assistance of his cane, was becoming a challenge. But there he was, cold and tired, just fulfilling his chosen volunteer service.
Statistics Canada reports that in 2013, 12.7 million Canadians were involved in some aspect of voluntarism, contributing almost 2 billion hours of service to their communities. It is a bit concerning, however, that the number of volunteers has dropped from 13.3 million only three years earlier. I worry that the trend may continue downward.
Researchers have documented two other
trends in voluntarism. More Canadians now prefer to give money to a
cause rather than their time. A primary obstacle to volunteering is lack
of available hours. A third shift is that volunteers increasingly want
to engage in “ knowledge philanthropy,” offering a time-limited
contribution where their specific talents and professional experience
can be utilized to meet an organization’s particular need.
"Well done, thou
good and faithful servant; enter now into thy rest."
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Monday, March 27, 2017