Joy of giving

Find joy through serving others

Would you like to volunteer or help out in Sacramento? Go to to see current Season of Service projects. Jeff vonKaenel is the president, CEO and majority owner of the News & Review newspapers in Sacramento, Chico and Reno. His column, Greenlight, appears weekly in this space.

I have had more than my fair share of happiness, thanks to my family, my job and my friends. But when I think of all the happy moments in my life, high on the list is my time spent with Habitat for Humanity families when they are getting their homes.

Watching the little kids run through their new house, seeing the parents tear up, and sharing a sense of pride with fellow Habitat board members and staff are some of the happiest moments I have ever had.

This joy certainly tops a great dinner, a new piece of clothing or some new electronic gadget. This emotion is what inspires many people to volunteer and make a difference in their communities. And despite working longer hours in humble surroundings, these volunteers are often happier than their higher-paid, better-dressed corporate associates.

I found this same sense of happiness recently when I attended Sunday services at Bayside of South Sacramento. Director of compassion and outreach Donna Trumbo shed tears of joy and pride while describing how, on the previous day, 371 BOSS volunteers made meals for the homeless, landscaped a couple of schools and took to the streets to deter gang violence. The video of these efforts created an uptempo holiness rarely felt at church services. Sitting in the pew, I felt the congregation’s well-deserved sense of pride in these accomplishments.

Like hundreds of other Sacramento churches, BOSS is participating in the Season of Service. Twenty-thousand Sacramento-area residents from 473 churches volunteered in our community over the past six months, and the goal is to continue this Season of Service into the future.

In a moving and passionate sermon, the lead pastor, Sherwood Carthen, discussed the biblical story of a rich man who asked Jesus what he could do to support his work. Jesus told the man to give his possessions to the poor. The rich man, deciding to stay a rich man, went away disappointed. Carthen’s booming voice filled the room as he told us that the man did not own his possessions, but rather his possessions owned him.

Not expecting his congregation to give up all their possessions, Carthen urged his audience to become more Christ-like by generously participating in the Season of Service.

While Season of Service has mainly been organized by conservative, evangelical churches, I believe that they are sincere in wanting all of us to join them in the Season of Service, regardless of religious affiliation or lack thereof. They have certainly made me feel welcome, and God knows I am not conservative, nor do I belong to an evangelical church.

So, I say let’s join them. Whether inspired by Jesus, Karl Marx or Groucho Marx, you too can find some real happiness of your own while bringing happiness to others.