Volunteer Stereotypes II

A while back, I convinced my husband to watch Letters to Juliet with me. I have to say, it is a major chick-flick that used up a lot of my points for picking which movies we watch together. But, there is a dinner scene, which I found interesting, where Amanda Seyfried calls the guy, who is her love interest, ‘a self-satisfied do-gooder.’ I’m pretty sure it wasn’t meant as a compliment.

It’s sad that pro bono, volunteer work is often seen in this light, but is it untrue? Unfair? In some cases, I’m sure it is. But, it has been my experience that pride can find its way into just about anything. It can be argued that there is an element of self-interest even in wanting to see someone’s happy reaction when they receive a gift.  I’m not really sure ‘self’ can be completely separated out. The best I think we can hope for is to become…or remain cognizant of the reasons we do what we do and use them to keep things in perspective—to not get caught up in patting ourselves on the back. Some people will have reasons closer to true altruism than others, but in a world that is far from perfect, how picky should we be? What is the alternative?


4 comments on “Volunteer Stereotypes II

  1. This is a very thought provoking article. I am not sure that I understand the question at the end. Are you asking the question ,”how picky should we be”, from the context of being a non profit, or an organization needing to find volunteers?

    Just recently I found myself doing a self examination to discover why I am volunteering in several places. I found myself asking the question, why am I doing this? What is my agenda? Am I doing this for my own self gratification? Am I doing this because I feel obligated to the organization? Am I doing this because I am seeking to be a people-pleaser? Am I doing this because I am looking for approval?

    How do you find good volunteers? That is a question I am probably not qualified to answer. I am thinking that finding people who can identify with your vision and mission statement. People that have connections in the community and have the same interests to see your vision come to life.

  2. You could say the question at the end is to highlight that there is no alternative. None of us are perfect. If we stop volunteering because our motivations are not completely pure and selfless…who does that leave to do the work? It is much easier for someone to point out the ways another’s flaws taint his or her efforts and use it as reason enough not to get involved. But then, what happens? Nothing.

  3. Unfortunately, since the debacle in “the Garden”, our base motivations are selfish. I don’t think it can be helped–as much as we may hate it and fight it, it is part of who we are. It is now wired into us. In life, when something bad happens, we sadly can’t change that fact, so all we can do is try to minimize the effects of the event and make the best of the situation. But no matter what we do, the “incident” still happened. I see our base selfishness in the same way. It is very unfortunate but it is what it is. However, we do have the power (and the duty!) to constantly fight it and strive for perfection while knowing we will never reach it on this earth.

    So, I don’t have a good answer regarding volunteer work and/or philanthropy but I guess, as in many things, we just do our best to concentrate on who we are serving and less on ourselves. It is a constantly moving target but practice makes closer to perfect!

  4. All, how about attacking the assumption that “volunteering has to be selfless to be pure”? Researching the volunteering sector, found this post and the link below, which blew me away. So refreshing. Yes, she’s obviously a rare person. But she found the connection within herself; I believe that many volunteers struggle with the baggage that it has to be selfless rather than being grounded in doing what they believe in. http://5kidswdisabilities.wordpress.com/


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