by Lyndelle Brower Chiomenti
Editor, CQ Bible Study Guide for Young Adults
This little guy is my dog Timmer. I took the picture a few days after he passed the necessary exams to become a therapy dog. Together, he and I visit teenagers who have serious emotional problems. Many of them are neglected or otherwise mistreated by their parents. There aren’t many things these young people enjoy about life; but they do enjoy being with the dogs--playing with them, giving them treats for tricks, or just talking quietly to a favorite dog in a corner of the gym where we meet. Research has shown that being with dogs lowers the teens’ blood pressure and gives them a sense of well-being that lasts two to three days after the visit. In addition, these visits often give them something to look forward to as they learn how to exchange their destructive behavior for more socially acceptable conduct.
I became involved with pet therapy when a certain portion of my life wasn’t going very well. Visiting the teens and helping them interact with the dogs helped me to gain some perspective by reminding me of the truly great needs that exist beyond my basically comfortable life. Now I visit for the pure joy of bringing some happiness into the lives of these young people.
So why am I sharing this with you? Perhaps you are at loose ends right now. Perhaps you’ve lost a job, owe too much money on your credit cards, or have just graduated from college and can't find employment in your field, let alone at the neighborhood McDonald’s. But while you’re trying to get your life on track, you can also help someone else get on track by volunteering.
If you have a degree in teaching, perhaps you could help an adult learn to read. Call your local public library to see if they host such programs. Are you good with computers? Then you could teach computer basics to people who visit your community’s senior citizens’ center. Are you good at a particular sport? Chances are a town near you is looking for someone to help with a summer training camp in that very sport.
You’re getting the picture, I'm sure. The experience you gain will even look good on your resumé. And it will show any prospective employer that you’re not just sitting around waiting for the perfect job. Even more importantly, however, serving this way is considered a spiritual discipline--a way of drawing closer to God by helping others who really need it.
Think about it. Isn’t that the way Jesus spent His life on earth?