If your life feels kind of empty,
And you are looking for good cheer,
Pick yourself up, dust yourself down,
And become a volunteer.
I was severely head injured at 19 years old. My life and my dreams were shattered but my faith was strengthened. I didn’t just love God – I needed Him and He provided. My disability made it impossible to keep a paid job for long, but I needed to feel needed. And the voluntary sector always needs you.
Winchester Cathedral has been my saviour!
For two sessions a week I am a door greeter, or if you prefer, a ‘welcoming steward’. Some basic training is given and a red robe is provided. (The cathedral doorway is cold and you won’t believe what some of us are wearing under the robe.)
My favourite questions have come from children who are rather interested to come to ‘God’s House’. Two questions have been, “Hello, are you an angel?” and “Hello, is Jesus home today?” Sometimes a group of children have dressed as pilgrims and walked across the meadows from St Cross. They are guided into the cathedral with their faces down and then they all look up together. The sound of a class of six year olds all saying “Wow” makes the job worthwhile.
I have never actually been frightened while volunteering but I have been stretched to my limits. An American asked me, “How much is this little church worth?” He was serious. When I replied that it was beyond all monetary value he asked how much individual statues were insured for. Yes, my patience was stretched and asking him how much the Grand Canyon was insured for was not the correct response.
Another aspect of my voluntary work is the cathedral shop. Not the gift shop but Cloisters, in Kings Walk. I have helped there, serving customers since it first opened. All money raised goes straight into the cathedral’s coffers where it is much appreciated. As well as working with the public downstairs, there is always work to do with donations upstairs. However, if you need support or are unsure, one quick ring on the bell and the manageress will appear.
The nice thing about charity work is one thing leads to another.
Every six weeks my Mum and I go to an undertakers! The Winchester Talking Newspaper is a charity which uses rooms at the undertakers to record and then copy articles onto memory sticks for the blind and partially sighted. Apart from the congregation at St. Boniface, of course, I have never met such lovely people.
I started with a poem,
I’ll finish with a prayer,
Thank you Lord for all the folks,
Who show how much they care.
© Sally Owens
This article was first published in The Parish News, of Parish of Chandler’s Ford, January 2014 edition. Magazine editor: Christine Clark.