1. a person who voluntarily offers himself or herself for a service or undertaking.
2. a person who performs a service willingly and without pay.
My understanding of this term correlates with its definition — it’s an act one does for no personal gain, except the “feel-good” factor. It’s supposed to be one of those things where you’re giving of yourself without any expectations. It’s something you do for a cause — usually involving the betterment of someone less fortunate than yourself. It’s for the priceless experience of lighting up someone else’s life. It’s not meant to be for or about you. It’s to give back to the community. A noble thing for the greater good.
But Disney’s Give A Day Get A Disney Day program has me in a tizzy. Can we not even give of ourselves without the proverbial carrot dangling in front of us? Are we so selfish that we will only give our time and expertise to someone in need only when we get something in return?
I have seen people volunteer only because it looks good on their resume. Or, when they’ve wanted to “network” prior to applying at an MBA school. Volunteering in the name of self-advancement. Then why does this program bother me so much?
Because it takes the farce to a whole new level. It’s asking millions of people across the country to sign up, step out, and give back only to get something back in return. Something for themselves. It’s not just about those handful few anymore who do it for selfish gains. It’s about starting a movement that says it’s ok to be narcissistic. It’s alright to help someone as long as you’re really helping yourself. It’s acceptable for “service unto others” be the secondary reason — you’re really in it for you.
You. You. You.
That’s what it screams to me. And that’s the message we seem to be comfortable passing on to future generations…
When did we become so self-centered? How did we become so shallow?
I do hope that people, once they have the experience, will get so hooked by the “other” rewards (the smiles, the tears, the affection, the contentment) that they will become volunteers for life. Not just for a day pass to the happiest place in the world.
One can always hope … right?
Update 2/22: After a long and intense debate with my significant other, I have come to the conclusion that volunteering is a selfish act. Period. Dividing selfish into material and non-material gains doesn’t apply or matter, because at the end of the day, one does it for personal gain — be it a feel-good experience or something with monetary value.