Thursday, February 21, 2008

Spirit of Volunteerism: Lost Art

Do you volunteer your time? Not because you have to (i.e. your company says you have to put in so many hours a year of volunteer work to support some internal campaign) but because you truly want to support some cause.

If you've followed my blog at all you've probably recognized that I extend pretty much all free time into volunteer type duties (with the exception of my personal indoor soccer team once a week). I know a bit about what it takes to volunteer, the sacrifices it takes to support a cause and the benefits that come through giving your time to others.

I also know the lack of empathy and general apathy others may have towards those that volunteer. Recently I heard the following comment from a parent that was supposedly not immediately contacted by a volunteer coach and notified of practice and the upcoming start of the season. After an explanation of probable causes, an assurance that they had not purposefully been left out and a reiteration of the fact the the organization is comprised of volunteers, the father made the following statement, "If you're going to volunteer your time then do it and do it right. If you don't intend to help then don't sign up." He admitted that he didn't have the time to do it but wanted to make sure his daughter consumed the full benefits of a volunteer organization.

In my experience volunteerism is not as easy as just signing up an committing to it nor is it as difficult as those that fail to dedicate any time to volunteerism make it. It's more likely somewhere in between. With most things in my perspective I see taking the time to pony up some hours of the week as a balance with other responsibilities. At times it may be easy. Other times quite difficult. But either way, those that benefit from it should see the service for what it is: no obligation imparting of time, talent and energy for those that may not be willing or able to do likewise.

Why is volunteerism such a lost art? I believe that so many people are consumed with:
  • work that they just don't see how they can do anything else and work becomes their life

  • entertainment that they honestly believe that if they're not working they should be entertained and have no part in the effort to obtain that entertainment.

  • Think personally through your week and calculate how much time you spend on the following:

  • work (domestic included)

  • commuting

  • food

  • entertainment

  • sleep

  • family play time

  • personal meditation/religious study/fitness

  • doing something at no direct gain to yourself, or volunteer time

  • The list above, in my opinion, is the core balance that all of us must juggle to maintain a healthy life. Not all parts are equal and society typically claims most of our time in work. Things that typically slide or are completely cut off/lost are the bottom 3 (and sometimes sleep) simply because the top 3 are mandatory.

    So here is a call for action on your part. Look at the list and calculate how much time you spend on each activity each week. Are you balanced? Could you be doing more with the bottom 3 and less with entertainment (which tends to be an overt drain on time)? Could you dedicate more time to giving to others the great experiences and talents that you possess? Could you do a little less grousing at those that do volunteer their time and support them a little more?

    Give it a try and see if life becomes a little more enjoyable for you. Also, if I left some important items off of the list, or if you have success at reaching a balanced life, drop me a comment. I'd love to hear from you.
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