The spirit of volunteerism is something I mean to instill in my daughter. Of course, if any such instilling is going to happen, exposure must be integral to the deal. It means that I would have to do volunteer work for her to acknowledge that volunteering is a part of her life. This, I have to keep in mind. Parents have been known to exhibit double standards, expecting lofty ideals from their kids and manifesting very little themselves.
I have, as a matter of fact, been exposed to activism, even prior to attending a very radical university. My Dad advocates it, but is quick to point out that being an activist doesn’t mean being a leftist. Being a pastor, he often engages members of the congregation in projects that require time, money, and hard work, but always on a voluntary basis. Members who aren’t interested need not participate. Gladly, we have a pretty enthusiastic bunch here, especially among the youth. We have been involved in pledges for an orphanage and shelter, rescue and relief operations during floods and other calamities, as well as clean election watches as NAMFREL volunteers.
I like volunteering. It feels great to contribute, to have your efforts, futile they may be on their own, join those of others until they collect in something that could greatly impact many people. Outside of our church (although we did try to get our youth involved) Sister and I had volunteered to be monitors of illegal wildlife trade. If I may resort to similes to describe the experience, I’d say it was very much like bailing water out of a leaky, fast-sinking boat with its captain trying to fight off pirates, do a sundance (to prevent the looming storm, of course), and repair the broken rudder all at once. Hmm, I’d say it still felt good to be bailing water.
If I were to cite three hopes that I have for my daughter when she grows up, I would have to say, that she be God-fearing, happy (whatever brand of happiness that might be), and a positive contributor to society. The third one could range from something simple, like working and paying taxes, to something absolutely noble, like being a guardian of human rights or saving endangered species.
Being part of a program the mission of which is to help any situation that needs it is a wonderful way to volunteer, but we do not have to limit ourselves to official agencies or groups. We can help out in the most banal circumstances. Of course, there are people who prey on those who are trying to be good Samaritans, but encounters with these kinds shouldn’t sour our desire to help. My Dad has always told us that he would rather be taken advantage of than to risk not helping somebody who is really in need. I know there have been times when he was taken in by con artists, but he has never displayed anger or regret over such encounters. He has always remained philosophical, never ruing the amount taken from him. “God will return it,” he has always said and true enough, God has always done so, even providing more than what was lost.
Anyway, even though I know those doubtful episodes did happen, they’re not important enough for me to be able to recall them vividly in my mind. What stuck with me though in full detail, pretty much like a mental treasure that I have and cherish, are those moments when my Dad had extended his hand and consequently had a positive effect on another person’s life. To date, I can still remember a man who was writhing painfully on the ground as though having a seizure, his son, no more than a toddler, kneeling crying beside him and everybody was just standing around them watching. I couldn’t have been more than eight, but I can still see Dad getting down to the man and urging somebody to calm the crying child. Thankfully, it wasn’t a seizure. The man had had a fit from immense hunger. He had gone to the city to visit relatives, but they were no longer at the address he had been given. He didn’t have much money, so the little that he had he spent for the child’s food. I won’t go into details as to how my father helped him, but some years later, the man came back to our house if only to thank my Dad again and to assure him that things were already going well.
Even the not-so-serious or potentially negligible incidents also stay with me: giving directions to somebody who was not familiar with the area, helping out a non-English-speaking Armenian to figure out her bus schedule, inviting a lone traveler to share a booth with us, offering to haul a lady’s suitcases up into the shuttle and being granted suspicious looks from her in return, etc. I could go on and on. They’re all with me, always reminding me how wonderful my father can be, especially when he’s being annoying.:-p
Having grown up with such an influence is why, nine months pregnant, I attempted to chase a runaway shopping cart, being careful not to slip in the rain puddles, to stop it from crashing onto the van of the very person who had left that cart unsecured, but to no avail. I was initially rewarded with a haughty stare as though I had been the one to cause the cart to crash into their vehicle, but was later thanked for my efforts when they finally realized what had happened. I could have just not bothered, but I was taught to do something when given the chance to help out.
Volunteerism can be a personal outlook. Being helpful can be an instinct. This is what I wish for Marguerite.