Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Faithful Friends, fantastic force

A force for good, that is.  I'd like to piggyback on an announcement that appeared in several of Bay Area Printing's Community Newsletters this month.  These are the manila-colored mail circulars that get distributed each month to different communities all through Clear Lake.

They look generally like this, and they show up unsolicited in your mailbox.  And unlike 99% of the junk mail we each receive, these publications are actually very useful. The publishers go to considerable lengths to assemble value-added local community information within them. 

Screengrab courtesy of Bay Area Printing
Here is the Faithful Friends Animal Assisted Therapy volunteer announcement in this month's newsletter:
Screengrab courtesy of Bay Area Printing.
I can't say enough good things about this organization.  I literally searched for several years before I found a volunteer opportunity that was a good fit for our family.  The problem I kept having is that no organization of interest would permit the participation of my teenager, no matter how closely I agreed to supervise her and accept all legal responsibility for her.  "Can't do it because of liability issues", they all would claim.  How are we supposed to raise our children to be responsible community-minded individuals while simultaneously they are shut out of so much participation because neurotic lawyers fear that someone somehow might conceivably get sued?!?  How exactly is the likes of that supposed to function as a model for humanity?? 

I spend my work hours segregated from my child.  There was no way I was also going to allow my volunteer hours to cut me off from her as well.  Faithful Friends encouraged her to go through the same training I did, and allows her to volunteer alongside me (with appropriate restrictions that I won't describe in this post).  This organization has been as much of a godsend to us personally as it has been to our local community. 
A young girl, a dog rescued from the Galveston County Animal Shelter, and an opportunity to contribute to our community. 
What it says in the announcement above regarding the sponsor University Baptist Church is quite true.  Most of the other Faithful Friends volunteers whom I've gotten to know are not UBC members - we mostly belong to a variety of other churches.  This is not an organization in which a congregational objective is shoved down any volunteer's throat.  We see so much of that kind of thing in America today - lots of people shouting and screaming that their religious path is the only correct path, lots of warring factions whose main objective is simply to goad others into their personal world views.  Such individuals don't really show any concern for the needs others - they just want religious converts to play their numbers game. 

In sharp contrast to all of that, there are those rare organizations like Faithful Friends, which demonstrates what I call true Christian principles:  they manifest their values and their faith through their actions without shooting off their mouths or endeavoring to tread upon the spiritual identities of others.  Those actions stand with great dignity on their own merits.  They speak for themselves far more effectively than any megaphoned "join the one true path" solicitation could ever hope to achieve. 

OK, that's enough soapboxing from me for one post.  Before I close, let me also mention that there is room in Faithful Friends for new members.  Sometimes folks read an announcement like the one screengrabbed above, and they figure that the organization represented is so obviously cool and so well-established that there probably aren't any opportunities remaining for meaningful participation by newcomers.  That's not the case here.  First of all, much of the work done by Faithful Friends is in nursing homes, where about 60% of the residents never receive any visitors.  Plenty of opportunity to contribute to that lopsided equation.  Second of all, as Laura Elder pointed out just last week, League City is currently seeing a boom in construction of assisted-living facilities.  I have heard several times that there is a waiting list for facilities that would like to be included on the Faithful Friends visitation roster, but there aren't yet enough volunteers to meet the demand.

So if you're looking for a volunteer op, there are some of my characteristically-strong opinions for you to consider as you evaluate your potential choices. 

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