There’s a war on volunteers.
And it’s armed with money.
From telling those of us that actually want to give a helping hand to just donate money (“it’s better for the local economy”), to only giving us 9-5 options to help (“no kids, please”), nonprofits have forgotten one critical point:
They serve at the pleasure of society.
You see, nonprofits stand in the gap between us members of society and the problems we see and want solved. Nonprofits get that 20% tax break because they solve the problems that humanity cares about – we’ve “hired” them to help us make society better. That is why they exist. And yet, they seem to forget that we’re they’re number one customer.
Well, no more.
We are taking back our rights as volunteers. Yes. Rights. Because service is not an optional add-on, it’s what we were made to do. And to help you fight this war with us, last week we started a three-part series on why volunteering and service are crucial for humanity. Here is Part 2 on why service to other humans is a duty and a right – and why we must stop the current rhetoric that “just giving money” is better.
7. Service Allows You to Live a Life of Courage
Ok. So here’s one of the big secrets of volunteering. Do you know what service is? It’s catching people when they fall. It’s our safety net. And if you’ve never seen that safety net in action, you don’t know that it’s there for you too. It’s like forgiveness – if you don’t forgive others, you don’t know that you can be forgiven. Forgiveness lets you make mistakes – service lets you take risks. Have you always dreamed of opening your own business? Volunteer. Help people whose businesses failed and you will see that it’s not that scary – that society wants you to take risks, wants you to follow your dreams, and will be there to pick you up if you fall. Have you always dreamed of losing 40 pounds and stepping out in your community as a leader? Volunteer. Meet people that have tried and fallen – and watch as society comes together to help them back up. Shower some love on them and breathe in the courage to go out and be bold, because you have a safety net if you need it.
6. Service Forms Bonds Across International Borders
Thought problem for you: When were you at your very lowest point? On that day, or week, or month or year, did you ever sit there thinking to yourself “Man, I hope that someone will throw an industrial-sized bag of rice at me, because that would make everything better”? Did you get up and go to work in the morning and think “Thank goodness no one is giving me a hand, because going to work every day just solves all of my problems”? Did that ever happen to you? No? That’s because it’s never happened to anyone anywhere.
Listen. Food is important. It is. Money is important. It is. I am not arguing with that. But do you want to know why so many countries around the world think that the West is a bunch of capitalist pigs? It’s because that’s how we’ve been acting towards them. It is not who we are. If you look at the statistics, people in the West are an amazing, phenomenal, generous, giving society. But we are throwing bags of rice at people and telling them all of their problems are solved and they’re not. Money alone does not solve problems. Do you know what does? Relationships. Friends. Community with others.
When we’re at our lowest, we crave human companionship. We crave someone holding our hand, inviting us into their lives, talking with us and listening to what we have to say.
So. I am not telling you to go voluntour around the world, because as I’ve said elsewhere, travelling to volunteer can lead to more problems. Plus most of us don’t have time (or money) to fly to kingdom come. Instead, help children that have been trafficked into orphanages in Kenya with Pencils for Hope – one of our international party baskets and projects. Send it with a giving card, and friend the person that receives your item on social media.
See what their life is, and they can see yours. Comment to each other. Yes, it’s scary (although we try to cut down on that fear with our screening process). Do you know what’s even scarier? Living a life ruled by terrorism. It is worth it. It is beyond worth it. So take that courage you got from volunteering and step out in faith. 99% of the time you won’t fall – and the other 1% we’ll be here for you so you can get back up and try again.
5. Service Gives you Empathy
This relates to #8 in Part 1. If you’ve never known the “other”, if you’ve never talked with them or spent time together, you – just like all humans – will tend to put them in a box that’s marked “not top priority.” This is a completely natural human reaction, so don’t feel bad – it’s what made humans capable of civilization, because we have to strengthen our immediate community to build laws and roads and schools and governments. But once we’ve done this, it is our duty – and our birthright – to look beyond and build bigger communities. Relationships are what we were made to do. And volunteering for and with people that are not like you does just that – it pulls people into your community, and you start caring about them. They move into your top priority box.
If you do not expand these bounds of community, then when you read or see something bad happening to people in that other box, you don’t feel human sympathy for them. That does not make you a bad person – it makes you a person. The solution is not to stick your head in the sand and stop reading the news. It is not to feel guilty about your life and just say “there are too many problems.” The solutions is to use that guilt as a stepping stone, not a stumbling block. Step up in service. Go help people and realize it’s ok to feel empathy, because you are doing something to make it better.
Ok, Aina Crew, those are the next 3 in our series. Tune in next week for the continuation. In the meantime, go forth, eat turkey, and take back your service birthright with some good ol’ Thanksgiving volunteering.
Carmen Westbrook is the CEO and co-founder of Aina Giving, a socially responsible company that makes charity easy. Carmen spends most of her days drinking coffee (she lives in Rome, it’s mandatory) and developing Aina’s at-home volunteer projects and parties for highly screened, trusted nonprofit charities. Read More about Aina here.