The Importance of Serving WITH

Christmas is a time for family. A time to feel loved. A time, not only for gifts, but to spend time with those we love the most. It’s also a time when people give the most to others in need. Whether it’s buying gifts for orphaned children, donating old jackets and clothes to homeless shelters, or giving to a charity, many people do their best to help others in need.

These things are fantastic ways to help others and I’m not here to tell you to stop doing them. They are absolutely vital to programs and charities that serve the poor.

But I want more.

This year, go beyond charity and beyond even volunteering.


Be with those in need.

In other words, start to see people in need as real, living and breathing people. People like you and I. People with lives. People with problems. People with loves. People who have made mistakes in their life. People with nowhere to turn. People who are lonely and desire relationship. People who need love or just a simple conversation or just a person to show that someone gives a damn about them.

Recently, my students wrote thank you letters to donors who are generous enough to give them scholarships to attend Cristo Rey. Many of them wanted to meet their donors and talk with them so they knew why someone would do such a good thing just for them. They want to see the faces of those who helped them. (Update: Benefactors visit Cristo Rey in the spring to meet their students).

So, this Christmas as we celebrate the birth of Christ, remember that Jesus spent his time amongst the lowest of the low in society and loved them when nobody else would. Remember what a little face-to-face conversation can do for someone. Talk with those in need. Sit with them and ask them what their name is and say, “How are you?” and mean it and listen to what they say. Serve people as people. Show you care.

*Image from knguyenpvn.

Note: Check out 12for12K’s “12 Days of  Christmas Homeless Push” for more information on what you can do this Christmas to help others in need.


15 Responses to The Importance of Serving WITH

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Tom O'Keefe, Tom O'Keefe. Tom O'Keefe said: [New blog post] The Importance of Serving WITH: […]

  2. christamarzan says:

    Great post- and I know exactly where you work haha, I went to Loyola College and we had a lot of service projects with Cristo Rey and many of my friends are in JVC right now. I work at a non-profit now and a study showed that many people only donate because of WHAT they will get out of it, not who they’re serving. If more people kept the true reason of volunteering in their minds, the world would be a MUCH better place. Well done!!

    • Tom O'Keefe says:

      Thanks Christa!

      Many Loyola students volunteer at CRJ each day, as you know. The CRJ students LOVE it and get a lot out of it.

      I think that study has a lot of truth to it. It’s very easy to donate money and wash your hands of the issue, so to speak (which I don’t think is the case with everyone). It’s a lot more challenging to face the issues head on and be with the people affected by it, but it’s also a lot more rewarding for the volunteer AND, more importantly, those in need.

      Thanks again for commenting!

  3. Kate Ottavio says:

    Such a valid point to be made – well done! Starting out in my career as a PR professional with heavy student loans, I’m not always able to write a check for a nonprofit, or give of my possessions. BUT, I make it a point to volunteer my time often. At the end of the day, organizations need money and gifts to function (as you mention), but our time is valuable as well and so important to those most in need.

  4. Hope the donors do get to talk with your students about why they fund scholarships. That would be beneficial for them – and the donors.

    I’ve found that the money that I give goes to non-profits that I’ve had experience volunteering with. It gives you that connection to an organization that a brochure, Web site or anything else just can’t match. Thanks for the reminder of serving, not just giving.

  5. […] blog post that I read this morning from a JVC volunteer in Baltimore (what a coincidence…) about the […]

  6. Jessica says:

    Beautiful. Thanks for this reminder!

  7. John says:

    Great post. Tom, in the second semester, almost all of our scholarship benefactors come in to visit with their scholarship recipient. They are beautiful meetings. Thanks for all you do for our young men and women here at Cristo Rey Jesuit!

  8. […] This post was Twitted by tomokeefe1 […]

  9. Danny Brown says:

    Hey there Tom,

    Such a simple message/request, yet one anyone of us can do. Cheers for the suggestion, mate, and have a great holiday season!


  10. […] Kristina is spot on. Sometimes, it’s easy to lose sight of this idea as a full-time volunteer. We want so badly for everything to go well and get better now that we can forget that we’re working for long-term, too. It’s important that the people we advocate learn to develop their own voice, so, someday, they have a voice for themselves and help others attain a voice as well. We shouldn’t be doing for. Rather, we should be doing with. […]

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