Don’t Be Afraid
Do More, Go Bigger - Don’t Be Afraid
By Debbie Fletcher
When I retired seven years ago, after working full-time for so many years running my own business and helping my husband with his, I struggled with my new purpose in life. I had to deal with feelings that I never experienced before. I was a natural problem solver, so I should be able to figure this one out, right? I knew I wanted to spend time with our grandkids, but I kept asking myself, what does the rest of my life mean? At the time I was volunteering at Habitat for Humanity, but I felt led to do more.
Since childhood, I’ve always had a passion for the poor and elderly. I volunteered at food ministries, community gardens, and senior centers, so it was a no-brainer to volunteer at POP’s Food Pantry when I retired. Thought I’d go one day a week to help. That was when my encounters with Christ began to take place.
I learned there was a shortage of crisis interviewers, but I didn’t feel qualified. These volunteers work with clients to determine and meet their food, financial, and spiritual needs. Every client has a unique situation. Many are broken by the loss of a job, emergency medical situation, victim of domestic violence, living in poverty, and so much more. They are always treated with dignity and no judgment to lessen their burden.
Because I had no experience in this area before, I had feelings of insecurity and being out of my element. The Mercy Center Assistant Director, Ana, and my daughter-in-law, Tracy. who also was serving, convinced me that the training provided would give me what I needed to make a difference. I agreed, and to this day, I am so grateful for their encouragement. The training provided me with the skill set I needed, and more importantly, God always provides me with just the right words to give them.
As I dutifully showed up once a week for my shift to serve, God kept telling me to go deeper, to help. So, I found more opportunities to serve in other areas of the Mercy Center that continually needs volunteers. For example, I helped with the Mercy Ministry’s Adopt-a-Family program, which is an easy way to help families living in poverty to receive Christmas gifts for their children. I also branched out and served in other ministries at POP. I finally took the training from the Worship Ministry and became an EMHC, which is something I’ve wanted to do for years. Very humbling to serve the Body and Blood of Christ at Mass.
Fast forward two years ago, when my family faced a major hardship. I felt depressed and was having a pity party. As I searched for the answer, I tried to fix it myself, but soon discovered it was bigger than me, than all of us combined. I felt weak not being able to handle things on my own. That’s when I turned to God and cried for help. His answer was quite interesting: “Do more. Go bigger.” I felt God and the Holy Spirit tugging at my heart, saying, that’s great Debbie, now do more! That’s when I volunteered to help with other groups at POP, such as Meals-on-Wheels, youth scholarships, and Golf & Gala basket makers. I also joined the Catholic WE Book Clubs that fueled my spiritual growth.
Every experience as a crisis interviewer and other times I serve make me realize how blessed and fortunate I am. I know God wants me to pour myself into others rather than worry about my own situation. In fact, he has continued to tell me to do more, go bigger. This has led me to do an individual project I call, “Love Lifts”. My mission is to lift others up while letting them know they are loved.
Love Lifts is still in its infancy. There are so many great organizations helping the masses, but I wanted to help one person or group at a time. Sometimes a simple handwritten “LL” note is all that is needed, but I’ve also developed a Lifter’s Kit with small items to show others they are loved.
My experiences with Love Lifts, POP, Mercy Center, etc. have had a huge impact on my life. I learn from the leaders, other volunteers, and even from those who seek our help. These are truly ministries of love. I am blessed to share that love everywhere I serve.
Looking back, I now realize that when I finally gave it all to God, he seemed to be everywhere. In every song I heard, articles I read, homilies at Mass—the answers I was seeking were all around me. I’ve never felt closer to God, and I continue to trust and ask Him to lead me. I want to always keep that line of communication open.
Through these many encounters of service and love, my desperate, hurting self has been renewed with an open heart to where God calls and leads me. I am no longer afraid. Yes, I still feel outside my comfort zone at times, but I know that God is there to show me the way. My advice to anyone who is searching for their own purpose and pathway in life, is to totally surrender their hearts and do as God told me: “Do more, go bigger—don’t be afraid”.