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Why Do I Volunteer?

by Terrance Shawn McGill


W hy do people volunteer?

In the past, it was thought that individuals volunteered strictly for altruistic reasons. The good Samaritan that goes out of their way to aid a stranger. The solider who goes back to save a fallen comrade. It was the noble thing for someone to lend a hand for the greater good of mankind. People helping those in need for no reward, favor or any grand show of gratitude. However, recent studies have indicated that there may be other reasons.

Some people volunteer to gain career experience, to build their resume. Develop skills or learn new ones. In addition volunteer work enables others to make contacts with people in their chosen career.

Some people volunteer to build self-esteem, to make themselves feel better. To feel needed, to feel that they have a place in this world. To truly feel like they are making a contribution to society.

Some people volunteer for the social aspect, to climb the social ladder while helping those less fortunate.

Some people volunteer as a result of the instilled set of values they have a set of values that compel them to act on deeply held beliefs about the importance of helping others.

Some people volunteer because they have felt the cruel sting that life may have afflicted them or a loved one with. For example someone might volunteer for the American Cancer Society because a family member died of cancer.

And some people do it because they want a better understanding about different people or the organization they serve, "bridging the gap," so to speak, in order to better understand their community and themselves.

However, I volunteer to give back to my community. I am grateful for the help I received from others. When I was in high school I participated in the Upward Bound program.

There I was influenced by the academic success of my tutors. I was challenged by them to exceed all of their expectations, and to broaden my horizons of thinking. Through Upward Bound I was able to acquire skills and opportunities that have helped me become the man that I am today. So I give back to enable kids to have the same chances at life that I have had.

Volunteering is the ultimate payback to those who helped me on the road to success. I remember asking a counselor when I was in Upward Bound how I could repay him. He smiled and said "Shawn, you can help me by helping another." A statement so simple, yet so deep in its meaning.

The feeling that I can shape someone's life for the better is unexplainable. When I got my first volunteer position as a junior counselor at my local Boys and Girls club, I was eager to be a great role model for the kids.

But things did not work out as I initially thought. After about a couple of weeks of volunteering, I felt that my efforts were in vain, that no one really appreciated what I was trying to do. It was a slow process and it got to be frustrating.

By the time I had reached my wits end and was ready to quit, it happened that the very day I intended to tell my supervisor of my decision. I overheard some of the kids asking where I was that day. They said they liked having me around.

My desire to give back to the community was renewed by the fact that I made a difference.

I feel that you should not volunteer for the praise or to boost your resume. You should not do it because it gives your organization a community service for some kind of quota. You should do it simply because it must be done.

Yes, because if there was not a need to volunteer then why would we do it in the first place. When we volunteer we are ultimately filling in the gaps that have been stretched out by apathy and the need of the people.

Some people are dissatisfied with those people that choose to volunteer for personal gain. I on the other hand am not. Yes, it is selfish of them to be under the guise of doing something for others when they really are doing it for themselves.

But despite the fact that they are benefiting from volunteering, so are the people they are helping. It is the classic case of symbiosis and that is a good thing. After all we all win when we volunteer.

So I implore everyone to find a cause and volunteer. Because not only will you be helping others, you will be helping yourself as well.


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