The Dying Art of Volunteering
For most of my life, I have practiced volunteerism. When I was young my parents directed me to shovel the driveway of the elderly neighbor. They told me I wasn’t to accept any money. They told me that the neighbors couldn’t shovel the driveway and didn’t have anyone to help them. I ended up shoveling their driveway, the neighbor called me to the door, thanked me, and was prepared to give me a $20 bill. It took everything I had to tell her no, I wanted the money. I did say no even when she insisted. And this would build volunteerism into my life.
Unfortunately, finding new volunteers has become an increasingly difficult task.
It is worrisome because many public community events rely on volunteers to run them successfully. If you’ve been to a Remembrance Day ceremony, Canada Day event, or other public fair event it has most likely been arranged and run by volunteers. The age of many of these volunteers sits in the 60+ range. While the public still wants these events, many people are “too busy” to help out. I have seen fewer and fewer events being put on and many canceled. COVID was the death knell for some organizations.
Volunteerism is a value statement of our society
I believe the lack of volunteerism is due to living in a self-centered, instant gratification, oppression Olympic, and amoral-driven culture. It’s difficult for people to want to volunteer when they don’t feel they share common values with each other. Instead of believing in the power of community too many people ask only, “What is in it for me?”
It also showcases the cultural differences between the elderly and the young. Why are most of these volunteers so old? Many of them have been volunteering well before retirement so it isn’t just something they did to alleviate boredom. They come from a generation that has different values and promotes different values. If you talk to them, volunteerism was just something that many of them did, it wasn’t expected but many people did it anyway.
Volunteerism changes society
I saw Dr. Jordan Peterson in person last year. I ordered my tickets early and I paid for the meet and greet. I sat right in front of the stage, first row the man was mere feet away from me the entire time. One of the responses he gave to a question posed to him hit home for me.
The question was asking how we turn back from woke culture. He re-framed it and posed it back to the audience, asking us what we are doing to have access to policymakers, to have the ear of the people who can make change, why they should listen to us, and who are we to them. The message was, that you have to build your competence and your portfolio if you want access.
Through volunteering, I’ve gotten to meet many people including politicians, policymakers, managers, boards of directors, and even the former Governor General of Canada. Having the ear of powerful people with whom you can network and bring your issues forward is some of the best access you can get.
They are listening and what you tell them from your position of competence can have positive effects. Instead of going to your city council meeting and complaining about your local homeless problem, start a committee on homelessness, build some recommendations with others, and present them. You can be the change your community needs by being part of the solution.
Volunteerism is a skill stack enhancer
I arrived on the scene at about 2300hrs and it was my responsibility to help find this family a home to stay at for the night. They had a house fire and they couldn’t move back in. I had to sit down with this family to find accommodations. I went up to the family and introduced myself, the father was in shock as paramedics bandaged his hands up from the burns he suffered.
Their gaze kept looming back to the house. The mother was sobbing uncontrollably as she tried to speak to me. Not knowing what to do, I gently grabbed her hand and told her, ma'am I understand you’ve been through a very traumatic event, I couldn’t imagine how you feel right now, I want you, your husband, and your children to have a safe place to go to tonight. For me to do that I just need you to answer a few questions, can you do that? She nodded and composed herself. I was able to get them to a hotel for the night and Mobile Crisis met up with them later on.
Volunteerism can be an enhancer for skill stacking. One can easily improve their speaking, writing, and listening skills because volunteering is often associated with a high interaction rate with other volunteers and the general public. One learns how to professionally and empathically talk with people. I cannot emphasize this enough, while you are not getting paid you are developing plenty of hard and soft skills when you volunteer and these skills will carry into your personal life.
The lack of volunteerism in society highlights how people are also losing many of these soft and hard skills. People are finding it more difficult to relate to others and I have found that many people are nervous to strike up conversations with others. Volunteerism is a humanities mindset and to be a good front-facing volunteer you have to use your communications skill set to a high degree. People pay thousands of dollars for courses and follow the advice of YouTube personalities when it comes to communication when there is a way to skill stack readily available.
The Future of Volunteerism
If we cannot find a way to motivate people towards volunteerism very soon we will lose a key aspect of what makes Western society so great, our altruism for each other.
As aging volunteers retire permanently, with no one to take up the mantle I fear we will see even more tribalism as events, sports, safety services, volunteer boards, etc. shut down completely.
So many services in our communities rely on volunteers. What happens when there are no volunteers to arrange Remembrance Day for our Veterans? When there is a disaster and no volunteers sign up to help coordinate a shelter? When no one wants to coach the little league teams? When there are no more big brother/big sisters to be there for children who are suffering? When there is no one to make food for the hungry? When there is no one to coordinate activities for elderly people in facilities?
The situations and possibilities are endless but the terrifying future is one where we lose our humanity towards each other and our communities. I ask that people reading this, consider volunteering with an organization that needs it & aligns with your values for even an hour a week and see how your actions can have endless positive impacts on your community.
Wrong Speak is a free-expression platform that allows varying viewpoints. All views expressed in this article are the author's own.