Careering round a corner in Crosshill, South Ayrshire, the cry came, “Is that you Neil!?” It was Bobby McGhee, marshalling for the ‘Straiton Struggle’. Organised by Ayr Roads Cycling Club (ARCC), it’s part of the elite Alba/Scotia Series of competitions which draws some of Scotland’s best cyclists. Alas, my credentials didn’t cut it (phew!), but I happily stopped to catch up with braw Bobby, whom I hadn’t seen for yonks.

One of the many topics we covered in our chin wag was ‘volunteering’ and how Covid had further decimated the, already reducing, number of volunteers in community activities. They’d struggled in ARCC to get enough volunteers to organise and cover their race day, and Bobby bemoaned the difficulty in sourcing helpers for other groups. Bobby is very public spirited, and his sense of wellbeing and readiness to volunteer is not diminished, indeed he was there for the day, armed with tea-cosy bunnet, high viz’ jacket, picnic lunch & thermos flask, ensuring competitors turned a Crosshill left rather than right.

Alas, from my viewpoint and experience in Fullarton Connexions, Covid has further accelerated the privatising of people’s worlds, people fixed to their phones and centred on self and a smaller circle of family/friends, rather than drawn beyond walls and comfort zones into service and sacrifice for the sake of others and buzz of blessing others beyond your usual crowd. This, coupled with increased anxiety and fear for the future, has served to reduce volunteers in church & community groups across the land (& World), such that more and more groups are closing down, or never managed to restart since lockdown. Alas, after many years of dedicated leading of our 5th Irvine Boys Brigade Co., Ian & Kerry Laird are retiring without anyone to continue the work. We celebrate all that has been achieved over the years, but also accept that it is the end of an era.

At Fullarton Connexions we’ve managed to secure a little funding to employ a part time Volunteer Support Worker. We have interviews shortly, and the successful applicant will come alongside existing volunteers to encourage them and help us recruit more volunteers into our inclusive circle of care. We’re nowhere near the pre-Covid volume of volunteers, but are swimming agin’ the tide to help people of faith, and none, to find the joy of serving and blessing others, and the nurturing self-esteem that accompanies it. As Jesus put it, “There’s more joy in giving than receiving.” Truth be told, this is one of the important antidotes for people with increasing stresses & strains, action which takes us out of ourselves and lifts us from stewing in worry juices to the reward and esteem that flows from being a personal part of a cause bigger than self and our immediate social circle.

We are unashamedly Christian in philosophy and outlook, attracting people into a caring cause and community. Some will led into an encounter with the living Christ, but such embracing of Christian faith is not a condition for volunteering. We’re part of a wider work of God, which is drawing people out of themselves through many volunteer avenues. I believe that written into every human’s DNA is an ability, even need, to volunteer, and that in giving time and ability to serve and bless others, for no obvious gain, makes us more humane and matures us in our design and destiny to be loved and loving human beings.

So, Bobby thanks for catching me at Crosshill corner! Thanks for your character and commitment to service, volunteering, and the blessing of others, grown over the years (not that you’re looking for such adulation or attention). And, friends, let’s recognise the importance of volunteering for our own sanity and sustaining of our caring communities; and, for people of Christian faith, the outworking of Salvation. Go The Bobbies of this world!