There is something to say about those that volunteer their time, money, and efforts to help the fellow man. Volunteering is something that has been around for as long as mankind has been on this earth. People from all walks of life help out in one way or another whether good or bad almost everyone volunteers in some form or another. Volunteering is the practice of people working on behalf of others without being motivated by monetary or material gain (Wikipedia). The act of volunteering helps promote the good in man and improves the quality of life for all. People volunteer for various different causes all have their reasons why they take part in the act of volunteering.
It can be said that volunteerism is based on religious beliefs especially those of the Christian faith base. That would be an accurate statement but, there are other forms of volunteering that are not faith based. You can be a volunteer firefighter, police officer, or EMT. One could volunteer at their child’s school to help read to students for example. There are various ways to volunteer and they are not always tied to a religious belief. Now most churches do ask that their followers volunteer their time, talents, and money to help promote the good of the church. Volunteering in a church setting is crucial it helps the church to achieve the overall goal of giving people a place to come that will allow them to get back the hope for the future that maybe was lost during the week. One can volunteer however he/she may like that is up to the person and it doesn’t have to be religious based to do so.
Those that volunteer are they the “do-gooders” as Ivan Illich called them in his speech “To Hell with Good Intentions” at a conference to the CIASP in Mexico. People who volunteer are sometimes looked down upon by others as a person who thinks they are better or more worthy because they volunteer. Some people may volunteer for that very reason to look good to those around them others may feel that they are obligated to do so. Others may feel that they want to volunteer to give back a little blessing that maybe was bestowed upon them in their lifetime. Does volunteering come from some feeling or moral obligation to volunteer as thought by Auguste Comte the French founder of Positivism and the creator of the word altruism. He believed “that an individual has a moral obligation to renounce self interest and live for others.” Comte’s word altruism means unselfish concern for the welfare of others (Wikipedia). Altruism comes from the Latin word alter which means other. Altruism is centered on the motivation to help others or doing well without expecting a reward. Volunteering is considered by some to be an altruistic action with the intention to promote good and improve the quality of life. Thomas Jay Oord an ordained minister in the Church of the Nazarene thought that altruism “might be one possible form of love” he defined it as “acting for the good of the other.” Volunteering in some ways does take on the form of love because man is putting the interest of something or someone ahead of his own in an attempt to improve the quality of life around them.
Why is it then if volunteering is the promotion of good does not everyone accept or agree with it? Some critics of the idea of volunteering feel that it is the Western cultures way of pushing its beliefs upon other people and nations. As did Mr. Illich he felt that Americans that came to Mexico came only to help did so to look good. He thought that Americans were only in Mexico to promote the “American way of living” and nothing more. He was totally against Americans volunteering in Mexico and worked very hard to help get them removed from the country. At the end of his speech he said the following few sentences in closing “I am here to entreat you to use your money, your status and your education to travel in Latin America. You can come to look, to climb our mountains, to enjoy our flowers, and to study. But do not come to help.” It strikes me as odd that one would not want help of any kind. If volunteering is the promotion of good why then would someone not want the help? From the research that I have done one thing that does come out over and over is the fact that some feel that it is a way for a religious belief to be forced upon others. I will use Christianity for an example basically it is the goal for Christians to promote good and love to others as Jesus tells them to through the bible. Here are those that believe that Christians use volunteering in an effort to promote their religion and get people to convert to Christianity. Some people may not believe like Christians and by accepting the kindness they might feel that they are going against what their core beliefs are. Whatever the reason is not everyone is open to volunteering and the acceptance of the good that it promotes.
I think about the impact that volunteering has on society and cannot imagine a world without it. I mean just a few months ago on April 22, 2009 our own President signed a law to boost volunteering called The Service America Act. Volunteering is a choice of some to put others ahead of themselves and offer help to promote the good in mankind. Some may volunteer to help church, business, or political organization. I asked the question on Facebook for my friends to tell me why they volunteer and got back some different answers. One person thought that we were born with it like a God given talent. Another person said that she did it because she loved to volunteer and it brought he joy in doing it. She said she wasn’t concerned with the credit that was given to her but, that she was using he talent to help others be successful at something. These were just a couple of the responses that I got back. Now the one about it being a God given talent I would tend to argue against cause if a family helps out then it doesn’t mean that the entire family will follow suit. Some of the family may feel that volunteering is against what they believe and do not see a need to do so. Either way it is an interesting way to look at volunteering.
In closing, it is my hope that you will see that volunteering or altruism is of the utmost importance for the overall success of mankind. One can volunteer in many different facets whether be in a church, school, business, or in a country. All mankind can look to volunteering as the way to promote peace and love in a world where a lot of hate exists. Whatever is your reason or reason not to volunteer I would ask you to rethink the idea and see what volunteering can do to help the world around you be a better place to live.