Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Volunteer, Goddammit!

My sister Adrienne has a great piece over at The Refurbished Feminist about the benefits of volunteering. She talks about her own experience volunteering with a cause that she believes in, and encourages you to find your own cause to contribute to.

An excerpt:

"I've reached an inner peace which has previously been unattainable since I started working on this event. It has inspired me in all areas in my life to be a better person. Although I am still working on my road rage and occasional lapse of judgment with careless words that leave my tongue, I am beginning to see the world in a more positive light. I've heard many times that there is no better reward than giving and now I understand why. It is, by my estimation, better to give than receive. Not only do you contribute in making the world a happier, more balanced place to live, but in many cases (like mine), it can give you more self worth. In the past I had always tried to fill this constant void in my life with "love" or material gratification and have always come up empty handed in the end. I suppose the mental reward for volunteering and being an activist for something in which I feel passionate about, is that I no longer feel like a lump of uselessness anymore. It's a great feeling and aids in the relief of being so self-absorbed (which I am still working on as well). I highly recommend it!"

I agree with her 100%. I've been volunteering at Hospice of Cincinnati for over a year now, and I can tell you that not only do I feel good knowing that I am providing comfort and support to people in need, I am providing comfort and support to people in need. Even though I am not getting paid for this gig, The time and energy I invest in it is completely worth it.

It is incumbent upon us as citizens in this society to volunteer. It's our responsibility to find out what we have a capacity to do, and to do it. The fact of this responsibility can be derived from both an argument based on self interest, and altruistic humanism. The argument from self interest is that you are not safe in a world full of people who only look out for themselves and are only concerned with the bottom line. Your children are not safe in a world where your neighbors are on the verge of cannibalism. A personal philosophy of social Darwinism doesn't lead to the survival of the fittest. It leads to the survival of the cruelest and most empty. We can sustain a handful of psychopaths in our society, but not a society full of them.

The argument from altruistic humanism is simpler: humans are ends unto themselves, and a life with minimal suffering, increased pleasure, and an ability to freely explore, create, contribute, and thrive is an inherent right.

And, of course, volunteering makes you feel good. It enables you to make a meaningful contribution to something you believe in, and offers the possibility of discovering a community of like-minded doers.

So volunteer, goddammit!


the elegant ape said...

Empathy is the true measure of a person's worth.

Adrienne Troxell said...

If only everyone would volunteer an hour a week...we would be set. No more homeless or hungry and a lot less crime. It's a pipe dream, yes, but I do so love to dream.

Spencer Troxell said...

That's part of why I support the welfare state. Because we can't rely on everyone to do everything that needs to be done voluntarily, it's good to have at least the infrastructure in place, even if it's abused from time to time, or not always adequately funded.