There is currently a war on volunteers.
From nonprofits telling people to just donate money (“it helps the local economy”, they say) to articles on how you shouldn’t volunteer over Thanksgiving (are you kidding me?? It’s THANKSGIVING) to hashtag donation campaigns to GoFundMe sites, the battle is on – and it’s armed with money.
Volunteers and those who serve are being attacked as hard to handle, people that just want to pump up their resume, and that it’s hard to find good roles for them (that’s the fault of the nonprofit, not the volunteer). Volunteerism in this country is dropping like a rock, and will bottom out at zero in the next few decades. And yet people wonder why our communities are falling apart and there are lone gunmen being radicalized (how did they get overlooked?).
Well, no more.
We are here to fight for the rights of the volunteer. And we hope you’ll join us in this battle cry. Because service isn’t something we fit into a paycheck – it’s a way of life, the only way of life, for without it we are lost in a valley of self-centeredness and disillusion. To arm us with the weapons of truth, we are giving you a series on the top 10 reasons you must volunteer. Here are the first three:
10. Service Makes you Grateful
I have a challenge for you – the next time you are feeling overwhelmed, like you wish things were a bit easier or maybe just a little achey around the edges, I want you to do a volunteer project. And I want you to try to keep feeling that way. Try it. I dare you. You can’t? Exactly. It’s impossible to feel bad about your own life when you are serving others. It won’t work. Why? Because we all have a natural tendency, when helping, to feel like the hero – and heroes live rad lives. Ironman may have some personal troubles, but in the end he’s Ironman. ‘Nuff said. Wonderwoman doesn’t have a perfect life, but she spends each day saving people – and she knows it. She sees the hurt in other people, she makes it better, and she knows that she’s done a good day’s work. That feeling is what volunteering gives you – because that is literally what you are doing. And you are doing it for no reward, no money, just for the love of others – and thus you become a superhero. Service to others gives that to you. Nothing else.
9. Volunteering Forms Bonds Across Socio-Economic Divisions.
There is so much talk today about the stratification of society, about how the rich have never been richer and the poor have never been poorer. Yes. It’s there. But other than voting (and crossing your fingers that the government actually acts on a solution), there is literally nothing that you and I can do about it. You know what you can do? Break down the barriers between those sectors so mobility between them is possible. If you volunteer for – and serve with – people that are different from you, you are going to form communal bonds with them. That is what happens when people spend time together in a group – it’s called community because we commune with others. So stop bemoaning the stratification and do something to break it, on your own terms.
8. Service Makes the Other not be so…”Other”
Here’s a corollary to #9 – do you know what happens when you’ve been raised in poverty and never actually talked to a middle- or upper-class person? You grow up with preconceived notions – bandied about by your peers – that all of “those” people are snobby, only care about money, and don’t value or work for the really important things of life. And the reverse is true as well – if you’ve never been in poverty, you have no idea what that’s like (and how oddly normal it is) on a day-to-day basis (I know, I’ve been there). So what does that do? It makes each of us point and say “oh, they’re not like me, they’re the other.” But they’re not. “They’re” the people. And the mothers. And the sons and daughters, just like you and me. So, wake up! Volunteer! Go out and see what life is like, and do it with openness, compassion, and service. You will find that the other is pretty amazing – and maybe they’ll find out that you are, too.
Ok, those are the first three, Aina Crew. Check out Part 2 for the continuation. And make sure you sign up with a local food bank to volunteer on Thanksgiving – even if it’s just to hand out warm hugs.
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.