This week the United States celebrated National Volunteer Week. I want to acknowledge and thank all the volunteers who are touching lives and transforming communities throughout our world.

When I think of the power of service, I remember a humble meal I had in a little village in Northern Paraguay.

Hyun Jin Moon in Paraguay

Sharing a meal that forever remains etched in my heart.

Early 2008, I was part of a project to move cattle through the rough terrain of the Chaco region to a developing farm.  It was a 5 day, 173 km trek.  In a nation where deep divides run between economic classes, it was beautiful to see children of prominent families riding alongside the local gauchos.

Along the cattle drive we came upon a small village. When the children came out to greet us, out of impulse I gave them my lunch, as it was the only thing I had to give at that time. In return the mothers of the village invited us in for a meal. From their meager coop of chickens they generously made our supper. As we ate, I experienced how the mothers’ heart of service melted the boundaries between us –we became family. I was moved that people with so little could give so much. It was this experience that solidified my belief that Paraguay was destined for greatness.

I shared these profound impressions at a peace and development conference soon after.  Perhaps it captured the imagination of the city of Asunción, because by July when we launched the Global Peace Festival in Paraguay, the city was inspired by the spirit of service.  City officials were stunned to see the youth come out in droves to donate from what little they had to help those more in need.  Schools adopted parks, pledging to maintain these public places throughout the year.  It is great to see these efforts grow into creative and impacting initiatives. Recently four schools helped create the first park for the blind in Paraguay.  I saw a simple act of service begin a powerful transformation.

As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Everyone can be great because everyone can serve.” And I saw over the years that this is so true.  So, to all our volunteers around the world, I want to thank you for bringing the spirit of service and hope of peace with every large and small act of service you do.  Please know that your investment of time and energy, of passion and love is substantially transforming the landscape of our world– starting with your own transformation and expanding to those around you.

–    Hyun Jin Moon