Life is no bed of roses. It doesn’t give one too much reason to be happy, and consequently, kind to the world. Or so we at least feel. Which is why, empathy, solidarity, charity and volunteerism are dying arts today. I wouldn’t have the time or inclination to volunteer just to be able to ‘give back to the world’. It would have to do more than that for me. It would have to tap a side to me that I didn’t know of myself. Like any other experience in life, it would have to offer me fruit, not material, but valuable and enriching in some way.

Volunteerism needs to get over its ‘be the Good Samaritan’ policy. It needs to be a learning, educative experience. One would be motivated to try volunteering only if it offered new insights, ideas and the potential to discover. That it helps support a cause along the way would be an added incentive, something I’m sure no one would shy away from.  A certificate, most can manage very easily. But experience comes the hard way and lasts for a lifetime.

Volunteerism needs to challenge people, like any other pursuit in life. It needs to make them feel like they have to constantly be on their toes. Volunteerism does not call for a laidback attitude, as one would think. And all this while distancing it completely from academic and job arenas in its approach, to make it fun and vocation oriented. That people have something completely different to look forward to in life at the end of the day, devoid of pressure or schedules, would be an incentive. It would help people de-stress without making them complacent.
On the other hand, volunteerism could often lead to career decisions, show one the way, help one find oneself. One could discover things one didn’t know about oneself, or one had no way of knowing.

Knowingly or unknowingly, volunteerism could also be therapeutic. It could serve as an opportunity for people to move away from things that life is forcibly or normatively encumbered under, and seek new beginnings. It could help them gain something truly priceless while giving back to the world. Volunteerism could also often be about imparting and sharing skills. Painting, singing, dancing, puppetry or gardening, there are so many things so many people want to learn and teach, but have not had the time or chance to. Volunteerism could end up making you feel better about yourself and help a few others, and give you an excuse to do something you love.

In other words, one expects volunteerism to have a purpose beyond the goodwill factor today. One expects value and experiences for one’s time. One expects challenges and lessons. It’s not about the selfishness that one would think is creeping into something as ‘noble’ as volunteering, but the fact that times, needs and attitudes have changed. Just like organisations require more involved, conscientious and enthusiastic volunteers, people themselves seek more constructive experiences while volunteering. You give some, you gain some.

By : Lata Jha


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