I was chatting with my daughter Megan the other day. She was bewailing the fact that not enough people get involved in volunteer activities at her girls’ school. Only 25%. I told her things hadn’t changed much since she was in school and Kathy and I put in out time on various PTOS. cynicism aside I began to think of all the work volunteers do.
Just look around you. Go to a park and there are volunteer guides. Look at the city streets and there are those helping the homeless. Food banks. Americorps. Habitat for Humanity. Churches. Hospitals. Crisis centers. Suicide Hot Lines. Sierra Club. Save the Everglades. Donators of blood.
Incredibly there are doctors and nurses that visit foreign countries at no cost. There is a young nurse at hospice who took her vacation time to go to Mexico and assist surgeons doing cleft palate procedures. There was that poor devil from Chicago who was in an Afghani hospital when some loony decided to try out his new AK47. Some would say, what a waste. Do you really think so?
It is easy to look askance and call them do gooders or whack jobs. Tree huggers and the like. I am not sure if that is an observation or assuaging whatever guilt we might have for not being part of them. Hey I am a busy man. They have nothing else to do. Those bums have to learn to stand on their own two feet. Yadda. Yadda.
This is not a lecture on altruism because Lord knows I should do a lot more. Some folks just don’t look at things the same way. I get that. But I wondered what causes me to try to help. I think it is a combination of compassion and a sense of community that everyone should pitch in to help. That produces a quandary for TTG. My giving is countered by the fact that people do have to become self reliant. I will help until you become a pariah. Then it is adios.
But what if you went completely the other way? The antonym of altruism is selfishness or more probably in today’s lexicon, objectivism. There are two classes of people, the hard working sorts and those that want to live off the land or the government as it were. Illegal immigrants. Vagrants. Lawyers. Oops. I have now opened Pandora’s box.
All kidding aside it is good lesson for me. I was kind of blown away when I started looking for anti charitable pieces. It seems many feel volunteers are taking away jobs from the masses. They are ill equipped and not worth the trouble they cause. It takes away from the responsibility of governments to provide. Now that you have helped us, what do we do when you leave? You think you are high and mighty coming in here and showing us your ways. Why don’t you just clean up your own act? Wow.
This really plays into politics and could be a primordial reason for our divide. The Dems want the government to provide everything and by the vehicle of extreme taxation redistribute the wealth. The GOP says do it on your own. Less interference means more money and ergo loftier goals of success. That is a serious divide based not only on economic philosophies but on deep seeded emotions. Can you do both?
As in all matters cosmic the devil is in the details. Rich Liberals give far less than Conservatives. The left will say all the Koch Brothers do is write checks. We get out there with the people. The right says that charity is more from the heart when it is an individual choice and not the dole. Houston, we do have a serious problem. It really is exacerbated by the fanatical wings of both sides that want the fan the flames rather than put the fire out or at least bring it under control. Got to keep market share and ratings up.
I watched a fascinating documentary on Nature last night. An Irish lad traversed the River Shannon during various seasons. Beyond beautiful it told the story of life and death on the river. Not men but animals. All without the bias and spins of an intellectual society. There was a cycle. You were born, nurtured and then set out on your own. There was feeling of family that helped where it could. But there was also a sense that some would not make it and fall prey to disease or hunter. Haves and have nots. Harsh but incredibly real.
This all won’t sway my basic instincts. I will help wherever I can and keep looking for the elusive dream of why God put me on this earth. But it will also give me pause when I am so quick to criticize this or that. I can only ponder what your soul thinks however far left or right. I will probably stay in the middle which is not a cop out. I just think collaboration is more fruitful than confrontation.
Man did this piece come full circle. Sorry about that. I wish I was smart enough to come up with an all encompassing philosophy that lasted all the days of my life. Stubborn and unyielding in my ways would make life simpler. But then again I couldn’t look for possibilities. I couldn’t think in color. Only black and white. Every day is an adventure in learning. Not routine. Most of all I ain’t giving up. I will continue to pursue my army of the center. Any volunteers?
Ted The Great
92% of Americans give some sort of charitable contribution. Low-income working families are the most generous group in America, giving away about 4.5% of their income on average, compared with about 2.5 percent among the middle class, and 3 percent among high-income families. The ultimate charitable gift is an anonymous one.
In 2012, 64.5 million Americans (26.5% of the population. Sound familiar?) contributed 7.9 billion hours of volunteer service worth an estimated $175 billion of service.
Since 1961 there have been 215,000 Peace Corps volunteers. 63% are women. 37% are male. Minorities account for 24% of those contributing.
Arthur Brooks in his book “Who Really Cares,” sees “four forces in American life that are primarily responsible for making Americans charitable” — “religion, skepticism about the role of government in economic life, strong families, and personal entrepreneurism.”Brooks’ research has shown that conservatives donate about 30 percent more than do liberals. Interestingly, on average, conservatives earn less than liberals. A separate study by Google said the number was closer to 50%.
Did all that clear anything up or make it murkier?