This is an auspicious week for Volunteer Maryland. After months of planning and recruitment, as well as eight days of training, twenty-nine freshly minted Volunteer Maryland Coordinators dispersed themselves throughout the state and began their service year in earnest.
When I think about this group of extraordinary service leaders, one of the most potent images that comes to mind is serving with several of them at Paul’s Place in Baltimore. Paul’s Place describes itself as “a gathering place for neighbors in Washington Village/Pigtown. All are welcomed, treated with respect, offered a hot meal and support, and given the opportunity to participate in shaping and building a strong stable community.”
I saw this mission statement in action as soon as I arrived. Before we ate the meal that was freely offered to all of us at Paul’s Place, we had the honor of participating in the morning meeting. In lieu of conventional volunteer orientation, Paul’s Place staff, guests, and volunteers meet to share good news, inspirational words, and to “pass the love.” The day we visited, this group gladly widened their circle to include us, giving several VMCs the opportunity to share words of encouragement.
And what is this love passing of which I speak? Well. Each time one person cedes the floor to another, the two must first engage in a REAL hug. Not all of us are huggers, of course, but these hugs are not just about getting uncomfortably close to a stranger. They are a symbol of what we share when we gather together to serve, which is a bond that transcends social or economic differences.
I found this notion of passing the love powerful because it felt like a commissioning. It was as if each hug conveyed a palpable love of service that would sustain VM25 throughout the year.
And now our VMCs are, in turn, passing this love of service on. By recruiting volunteers and developing sustainable volunteer programs, and perhaps occasionally through hugs, they will put this love into action. Can’t wait to see the results.