Tuesday, December 12

Volunteering and charity

They're a big deal, volunteering and charity. The amount of time you unselfishly donate to others is a quantitative element that others often use to judge if you as 'good.' Besides that, material benefits have accrued alongside the less tangible identification of one as a good person. Charity work is really pushed at the high school level and participation in it opens up all manner of scholarships and gives your college applications a bit of a boost. Or not because it has become the standard. You want to win a Citizen of the Year award? I understand that coaching Little Leauge and the like does a fair bit towards endearing oneself to whatever committee makes those selections. For some businesses, philanthropy or the appearance of such has become a major component of their operations, Product (RED) being the current pre-eminent example.

This post isn't about the larger issue so much as its appearance in my life as of late though that would make for a decent post.

By accident of birth, I have never been in need of anything in my life. The essentials and necessities have all been taken care of for me. Life certainly isn't fair, but I can bloody well try to make it a little more so in some way. That's why I volunteer and try to do good.

At Gonzaga, I have given time to a local elementary school this past semester and, last fall, an organization which I prefer to call a homeless service center to a shelter because its sleeping program is minor and it mostly provides some necessities and opportunities to the homeless who take advantage of it. In the first case, I took care of some minor things like putting together papers for the students and helping them with their writing to the small extent you can when they're in first grade. In the latter case, I sat behind a counter and handed hygienic items out to those who asked for them. In either placement, my job could have done by most anyone. They were not what I am looking for.

No, I think the best example of what I'm looking for is a project I took part in towards the end of the semester. Operating under the name 'A Warm Welcome' the intent of the project was to provide student-made scarves to incoming Karen Burmese refugees. In ideal practical terms, for the amount of energy we devoted to making these scarves, we could have held jobs and devoted our earnings to the refugee placement service, World Relief, and done them far more good. In more practical terms, it's very hard to get college students to part with their money in this manner while they are more than willing to give of their time. Furthermore, though the quality of the scarves was largely of inferior quality to those which could be purchased commercially, these scarves were the first crocheting project for many students so they gained a new skill, and I hope that they demonstrated a greater sense of welcome to the refugees than simple purchases could.

That it was what I am looking for. Actions with both tangibly good results and strong meanings behind them as well. Time to start looking harder.

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