When and How Much Should You Invest in People?

A question inspired by this weekend’s events in which I found myself in an unfamiliar setting with many unfamiliar faces. I volunteered at Young Life camp family weekend. My job along with several other girls about my age was to care for toddlers while their parents attended seminars and worship services. I was a last-minute fill-in for a volunteer who had to backed out and the only person I knew was my roommate who had signed up to help weeks ago.

As the weekend progressed, I found myself conflicted as to how much I should be getting to know the people I was volunteering with and the families I was working with. The camp was about 36 hours long, so was it worth really getting to know people? I also wondered how the families were getting to know the other families, knowing they would part ways in so short a time.

I haven’t always been so thoughtful regarding this type of thing. Throughout my school days I went on countless weekend trips with my youth group and school and various camps. At all of them, I probably met knew people, got to know them, and didn’t hold back only because I knew our relationship would be short-lived.

But this weekend, I was acutely aware of it. I didn’t pry too much into the other volunteers’ lives when we ate meals together, I didn’t go out of my way to introduce myself to them if I wasn’t working directly with them, I didn’t even learn some of their names until the morning we left. Why was I acting this way? Is it from my near quarter-of-a-century’s life experience that has taught me friendships take energy and energy was not something I had after a long week at work? Was it because I’ve gotten too comfortable with my social circle in Nashville and felt no need for expansion?

Or was it because investing in others’ lives takes dangerous amounts of vulnerability, and who actually volunteers vulnerability?

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  1. Tami Heim on April 18, 2011 at 10:17 am

    The answer is there somewhere – the beautiful thing is that you have the courage to go looking for it. Open your heart. Keep seeking. Keep asking. It’s there waiting for you. And just maybe…you’ll share it with us when you find it.

  2. Katie on April 18, 2011 at 12:16 pm

    I’ve found myself going through the same thing lately. Since I finish undergrad in a month, it’s really easy to gravitate towards the people I already know to get to know so our relationships continue once we leave campus. Even knowing I’m graduating, our campus pastor asked me how many people I’ve met and gotten to know this semester. Boom convicted. Even though I’m leaving, the time we spend right now can still make a difference. Honestly, I think it’s a dangerous place to be where you aren’t making the effort to get to know new people. Although, in a weekend setting I’ll definitely admit that it’s harder to put forth the energy. But maybe that conversation, that friendship is only intended for that weekend. I’m willing to be used by God that long.


  3. Rick C on April 18, 2011 at 12:52 pm

    A few comments. Now, if you mean by investing in people you are building friendships/relationships then these are humbly my thoughts. Obviously there are again different ways to answer. Perhaps the simpliest of all investments in people whether you know them or not is a smile. That isn’t always easy but it’s a fantastic investment with many returns. You never know when someone is having a difficult day and a simple smile can make a big difference.

    I firmly believe that God gives us all of our relationships whether many or few and he also gives us the means to participate in and build on those relationships. I think as important as the first statement is that if you walk with love, grace, genuineness and in particular, humility and kindness, people will be there if you let them. More than that though and whether your realize it or not your life style of love, grace, genuineness, humility and kindness IS a huge investment in people. Even those who aren’t of Christ know the real deal, it’s very easy to spot a fake and not many of us, I would guess, like a fake. Who you are as a disciple is an investment in yourself and people and should be clearly defined by the tenets you adhere to. And last, the great preacher Billy Graham once said that one of the mistakes of his very long career was not taking time to get to know the younger preachers that were coming along behind him. I don’t know how this great man of God could have squeezed another human into his life but he at least thought it important to consider and probably did take time to get to know younger ministers. I think he’s got a great point.

  4. Shellybell on April 18, 2011 at 6:38 pm

    Hello, welcome to my life. I love to be a fly on the wall…I tend to watch and listen in new environments and keep my mouth shut. I tend to forget that people can actually SEE me. 🙂

    Great question. One I contemplate quite often.
    I will say, I regret my interactions with people (or lack there of) way more than anything else in life.

    See you soon!!

  5. Carlos Lopez on April 20, 2011 at 12:03 am

    Humm Andrea.
    First, You are not the only one who can ask 3, 4 or 5 times a new name to finally learn it…. It´s a pain and make me feel bad.
    My leader once told me that´s proud because I do not really pay attention to others…. Could be, but, What can I do, I cant remember names easily!.
    Invest in others it´s part of being real christian. There is nothing remarkable if we invest our lives in ourselves or the people we know and love. It does not show compassion, Our love should be without interest or benefit, if we receive any benefits, what is that love worthy of?.
    It´s complicated to think that way… We have much to learn about that. It´s very difficult to put others in a higher position of ourselves.

  6. Cheryl G on April 21, 2011 at 4:12 pm

    I loved being with you for a brief window of time these past few days…and I experienced a flood of memories … from years of observing you grow up. It’s a joy to know the beautiful, mature, gifted young woman you are now! And you’re still asking the ‘hard’ questions. I am grateful for the investment God has made in both of us! Blessings! cg

  7. youknowcharlie on April 26, 2011 at 5:38 am

    I believe ulnerability is a wonderful thing and is the ultimate quality that shows your real self. Why do we all hide what we truly are? Fear perhaps. I have always thought that people are like eggs and some have thicker shells than others. The true personality is in the yolk, the thicker the shell the more protective the person is of who they really are, and if it does break at some point it usually explodes and makes a hell of a mess. Keep your thin shell of vulnerability, it is your greatest asset.

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