Had I not taken on volunteering opportunities when and where I did, namely ones I took back in 2013, I probably wouldn’t have survived to write this, but the fact that volunteering was a life-saver isn’t the meat of my story.
You (yes, you the person reading this)–if you’re anything like me, I will assume that you already know about the benefits of volunteering. Coupled with that, you may have preconceived notions about what it is and what it isn’t. If after reading this you associate the term “volunteering” with retired empty nesters or adolescents in search of community service hours, be my guest by all means.
I can attest that volunteering goes way beyond that. All I can do is implore you and invite you to take away the good that you need, and allow the remaining abundance to infiltrate your personal and professional life. What I have learned from volunteering enlightens me to this day, but it’s not about me. What matters more is that the kinds of discoveries within those experiences have the potential to annihilate the unnecessary economic struggles that both you yourself face and the world also, the same world you’re trying to establish yourself in through your talents and through your work.
When I had gotten started in freelancing and working from home full-time, I kept meeting business people who shared a distorted paradigm about the way the world should operate. And I feel that their beliefs stem from the unchallenged status quo, the corrupt social constructs, the written and unwritten laws, the concepts like competition and win-lose business tactics. At the end of that paradigm, I see a defiled world poisoned by greed, lying, and oppression.
Ask the corporate world if all of that is okay in light of their paradigm. I wonder how many answers would remain the same.
I still meet those white collar beasts every once in a while. Fortunately, I have found solace off the beaten path with the help of some faith and courage and the motivation of my life mantra as told by Robert Frost’s poem “Road Not Taken.” My road wasn’t leading me to take out another credit card, pursue jobs against my moral code, or invest in the latest network marketing company. Much rather, that path led me through the course of volunteering. Of all things…
The Case Against Volunteering
I see a large handful of people who broadcast their volunteering testimonies from the same run-of-the-mill perspective and, if you ask me, their messages don’t quite reach the audience of people who could really benefit from volunteering. Furthermore, many working professionals and business owners are far too tied up with the trappings of the rat race to perform “free labor,” let alone read another generic story about it.
I’m most certainly grateful to the people who perform selfless service to the world, but I can’t help feeling like I’m watching a straight to DVD Disney movie whenever I read some vague claims about how volunteering changed someone’s life. Their stories encourage the notion that service work is a one and done, something people eventually wash their hands of after getting a particular experience they wanted.
Volunteering: More than a Pastime, an Obligation, or Philanthropy,
Denika Laurie is a holistic health practitioner and counselor, and I have been following her for about a year to date. I was watching one of her videos in which she addresses the money struggles that working people face. Her advice isn’t conventional. To the people who are struggling economically in their career or business, she recommends that they make it a priority of giving back to the community as opposed to throwing themselves into more draining work in an effort to stay alive. I share her logic.
At the time I was building my career, I had side jobs and miscellaneous tutoring gigs. I was juggling four different jobs at some points! Things were up and down although I was often provided for. Then came a time when I really needed to get creative as work tapered off. When I was literally sick and tired of the last day job I had back in May 2013, I needed to figure out what I was going to do to make working from home worthwhile.
The farmers market in my town was starting back up again about that time. One day, I felt led to pay them a visit. I went out, observed for a little while, and then approached one of the organic vendors about working in exchange for food so I could have one less expense to worry about. My involvement with them wasn’t strictly quid pro quo. I took on other tasks, facilitating the craft workshops and designing marketing literature in conjunction.
What they were about as community-oriented and health-conscious people was something I wanted to promote and see more of, and I was putting to use the very same skills that I brought to the table back in my home office. There was still nothing like getting up at 6:30 am every Friday to prepare for those mornings of service in a community that equally enriched my life as much as I wanted to enrich theirs.
Everything is bound to come full circle in your life when you live it intentionally with an open heart to others and what they need. Both in the world of volunteering and in the world of business, you’re going to be serving real needs regardless.
Now more than ever, 21st century leaders have the power to exact the kind of positive change that will sustain the future of themselves and their communities, which we all need whether or not others acknowledge it. I can assure you that the way you see your clients, your patrons, your investors, your network–the global society, really–will change when you enter into meaningful, mindful service in lieu of running a career or business. Everyone will notice subsequently and you all will benefit, no backstabbing or cheating required.
Tell me how you’re feeling right now about your work in the grand scheme of things. Do you feel like it’s rewarding or do you feel like your struggling to stay afloat? However your situation has played out up until now, what is one thing that you think you can do to exact positive change in your life and the environment you presently live in?