Many decades ago I had served my home town as a volunteer emergency medical technician. In addition to a few hours a week of volunteer service, often in the middle of the night, I had completed hundreds of hours of training, at my expense. The firefighters in our community were also entirely volunteers. In the course of this training we learned of Good Samaritan (see Luke 10:25-37) laws intended to protect volunteers.
Increasingly communities can find fewer people willing to volunteer their time to aid their neighbors. Each year training programs become increasingly more complex, take longer to complete, and more costly to the volunteer. Increasingly volunteers do not complete the training or cannot meet the physical requirements. Or perhaps those might volunteer would rather pay someone else than take those courses and relinquish precious volunteer time.
At a church training event the leader talked about traditional church dinners where members brought casseroles, salads, and pies they had made at home. Older women in her congregation had complained that younger women no longer baked, but had resorted to store-bought items. This pastor and her husband both managed full-time careers and a family. For her, and many of her peers, adding a few items to her shopping cart made better use of her time than an hour or more in her kitchen. For her family, it made cents to pay someone else to cook.
Are we becoming a nation of “Innkeepers,” people providing hospitality for a wage rather than as an act of charity?
Admittedly hiring professionals has significant advantages over volunteers:
- Regular and frequent experience teaches much that a few hours of class can only begin to cover.
- Paid help can be scheduled more readily and more reliably.
- Store bought food is more likely to meet health department guidelines for cleanliness and contamination.
But much is lost as well as we shift from supporting one another to buying a service from a paid employee. How will we maintain connections with our neighbors that will unite us a nation?