Rich Schwartz

Volunteer Spotlight: Richard Schwartz

Meet our latest PCM Volunteer Spotlight, Richard Schwartz, and learn about what inspires him to do the great work he does!

Why/when did you start volunteering with PCM?

The autumn that I joined the church, in 2015, I was invited to be part of a group dedicated to an ongoing project of post-Hurricane Sandy relief for the small Raritan Bay town of Union Beach, NJ. The work our church did there was very similar to Habitat for Humanity. The only problem was that I’m completely out of my depth hammering nails, painting walls, or, in this case, installing insulation. I survived it. Whether the dwelling did, I don’t know.

There’s an important truth in this: in Outreach work, you want to be honest with yourself about the things you are confident doing; the things that might involve a little positive risk taking and stretching and creative discomfort on your part; and the things you’re probably not going to do happily. You should strongly consider the first two, and you always have the right to decline the third.

What is your favorite volunteer activity?

It’s hard to say. I tend to like things where I get to interact with people, both the people we serve and the people with whom I worship. The former helps me to feel as though I’m acting on behalf of our triune God here on the ground. The latter helps me to know more truly and appreciate more fully people with whom I may have only occasional, Sunday morning contact.

What’s the best piece of advice someone has given you?

Frederick Buechner: “Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery that it is. In the bordeom and pain of it no less than the excitement and gladness; touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace.”

Tell us three of your hobbies:

I retired from school teaching last June, and this has given me ample time to pursue a lot of interests. In no particular order: I have a lot more time for reading; I have begun a Substack newsletter that forces me to write consistently for an audience; and I’m getting to live athletic events, especially college lacrosse games. (I’m also getting to more live jazz performances.) Friday morning hiking as well! (I know, I exceeded my allotted three!)

Favorite food:

My favorite food is a sausage pizza from Joe’s Pizzeria in Vauxhall, New Jersey. But wait–maybe fried clams. Or black raspberry ice cream.

If you could have a superpower, what would it be?

At 66, the superpower most useful to me would be to be able to put on my running shoes and run a few miles, a few days a week, without having to work with a physical therapist every few months. Sadly, I must have encountered runner’s Kryptonite somewhere.

If you could jump inside any book, fiction or nonfiction, where would you go?

Ronald White’s “Lincoln’s Greatest Speech” concerns Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address. I would have liked to have been there on March 4, 1865 to see him and hear him. John Wilkes Booth was in the crowd that day. I’d have liked to have persuaded Booth to listen to the better angels of his nature and stick to acting.

What historical figure would you want to meet and why?

So many! But I’ve done some writing about Lincoln, so I’d choose him to see if I know him as well as I think I do.

Does pineapple belong on pizza?


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