I went with my work team, yesterday, to a charitable organization. We were ‘volunteering’ to assist in sorting donations and pack stocking stuffers for the persons in need that this charity supports. Sounds like a lovely way to give back to the community and give the ol’ Christmas Spirit a boost doesn’t it? You’d be right, except for the fact that we have to bribe people at our work to volunteer by saying there is a company paid booze and bite afterward. I absolutely cannot get past the point that we, the fortunate, NEED validation and in excess, to show support and compassion to those less fortunate around us.
I’m not saying that we have to carry around a pound of change for the gentleman that’s always on the street corner when the lunch time or home rush is blowing by him. He knows his target audience and works them just like any good salesman. I’m talking about the husband who makes just enough to pay the rent, his wife makes just enough for the groceries, and they both get ulcers the closer Christmas gets because they can’t afford the ‘extras’ such as a Christmas Tree and decorations for it so they can give their kids a ‘normal’ Christmas experience. The gifts this family gives/gets are thoughtful but small. And yet here I sit, in meetings with safety moments about hanging your Christmas lights on your house and ultimately everyone agrees that paying a ‘professional’ $600 to do it is the best and safest option. There are many proverbial pats on the back of this ingenuity and a figurative face palm that I give to myself because I cannot comprehend how you would explain to these braying donkeys that you could do it yourself, safely if you paid attention to the task at hand, and donate $600 that you so obviously don’t need to someone who does.
So there I sat, with my team, shoving food in face and pouring alcoholic beverages down my throat while they all say how good it felt to help someone else. I sat there and felt like a fraud. How selfish of me to only help someone out if it’s a company sponsored event afterward.
A volunteer is defined as: a person who does some act or enters into a transaction without being under any legal obligation to do so and without being promised any remuneration for his services.
Well there I was enjoying my promised remunerations, libations, and potations all because I said that I could take 2 hours out of my day to sort some donated gifts for someone who cannot afford those items regularly. Look at how much I deserved to be applauded. All in all I feel as though I’ve not only let myself down but also those who actually would appreciate my help.
The festivities took such a frenzied turn that I left when the shots came out, at 530pm…on a Tuesday…there are some team members missing today…but not because they have a volunteer hangover, but because of the excess we feel entitled too. Because of what the act of volunteering at work can really do for you; a night out of free food, booze, and it’s all you can drink. My company calls this team building. I ask why wasn’t the act of donating our time enough of a team building exercise? You’re never really sure who comes out to actually help or for the promise of drinks after.
I’m by no means standing on a soapbox here and I’d probably have a leg to stand on if I didn’t also join in on the ‘celebration’ afterwards, but it’s the hindsight that gets under my skin the most. I could have gone home after leaving the charity and just felt wonderful about helping someone who has less than I do. But the ‘team building’ beckoned and I felt the unspoken pressure of being able to rub elbows and clink glasses with the higher-ups in our group, to be present, to be counted, to feel hollow and alone in a group of people who would never help someone less fortunate on their own time. I thought I was better than this…next time I will be…I hope.
My hope for myself this Christmas is to truly give without expecting. To remember to give of my time, money, and self to those who have a need without wondering what they are going to do for me in return. All my needs as well as my wants are more than taken care of, let me be able to help someone else experience this relief as well, no strings attached.