Forgetting Ourselves on Purpose

June 2017 – A reflection by Jim Hayes, Executive Director, Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center


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I have spent a good bit of my life exploring the notion of vocation. Think of this as your answer to the question, “What should I do with my life.” A book that I have found helpful along the way is Brian Mahan’s, Forgetting Ourselves on Purpose: Vocation and the Ethics of Ambition.  Among the author’s many findings in the succinct composition is that giving our time to others enlivens us—draws us closer to the experience of being fully alive.

In other words, volunteering is good for us on many levels.

Many of you involved in the work of the Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center already know this. People offer countless hours to our organization and other worthwhile causes and organizations. I encounter these generous spirits almost daily. Board members who give of their time to make sure we have what we need to fulfill our mission. Staff who offer time to one another to study cases in order to continually improve as clinicians. Donors who attend events or enter into conversations with others to promote the importance of our work. Most recently, witnessing the commitment of the Women Helping Women Committee devote hours of energy to achieve record breaking resources to help us serve our clients most in need. If you could have been a fly on the wall of those committee meetings, you would have seen a group of people fully alive.

Volunteering at the Center is tricky business. We want to respect the privacy of the many clients were serve as we go about our daily work. Thus, we don’t have as many direct service opportunities as, say a food pantry. I have asked others to explore with me how we can imagine possibilities for volunteerism at the Center—for a number of reasons:

  • Volunteering is good for you, and we’re all about hope and healing for all. Thinking of others and giving of our time for others helps to diminish some of our daily concerns.
  • We are a non-profit, so often struggling for the resources necessary for daily operations
  • Some of our corporate partners from whom we seek sponsorships require volunteer opportunities for their employees at the non-profits with whom they partner as those employers also recognize the value of volunteerism and community engagement
  • Volunteers tend to be more deeply committed to the organizations they serve
  • A community of volunteers is just that—a community. Gathering volunteers occasionally will build up our sense of community at the Center.

Conversations about this topic have generated some great ideas on how we might expand appropriate volunteer opportunities at the Center. If this list of examples sparks other ideas for you, please send them my way.

  • A volunteer coordinator to help organize and recognize volunteers at the Center
  • Data entry
  • Volunteer receptionists who can cover for short periods of time in order to free up our excellent administrative staff to do training or other needs that might take them away from their very important “front of house” duties
  • Simple maintenance jobs around the Center
  • Landscape work. As we continue to grow into our building, our landscape plan matures and is often in need of tender loving care. We would love to have some folks “adopt a garden.” We need immediate help in this area. We’re also exploring spring and fall clean up days as events to bring people together to celebrate and support our work
  • Board subcommittees. We have many needs on these committees which require expertise. Examples are finance, human resources, fund development and community engagement
  • Board of Directors

These are just a few examples. We’ll continue to provide such examples and are certainly open to other opportunities or gifts. Send me your ideas, or even better, let me know which of these opportunities are of interest.

Some of these needs can be met through capital campaigns and fund development. We shall continue to work hard on that. I am of the conviction that it is not only the sharing of treasure that makes us stronger, but in the sharing of our time and talents that we find our way to the fullness of life—by forgetting ourselves on purpose.

James E. Hayes, D. Min., M. Div., Executive Director, Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center

We celebrate and are grateful for the many ways people help us to serve others in our mission to bring hope and healing through counseling and education.



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