What Does Volunteering Mean?

Last week, I had several conversations, which made me first upset, then angry, and then angry at myself that I got angry:). And now, I am trying my best to abstract from particular conversations and to say what exactly was so upsetting. 

What does volunteering mean? It means that you want to do something with no pay. And this includes – possibly no thanks. You want to do something because you believe that this something is important. That somebody’s lives: people’s, animals’, plants’ – will become better if you will be doing this – whatever “this” is. 

You say: I want to volunteer. Great. By the way, nobody “has” to volunteer. I will never criticize anybody for not wanting to volunteer. A person can only decide by themselves, whether this is indeed what they want. 

But want I do not understand, and what makes me mad – when somebody expects to be rewarded for their volunteer work. When they get upset that they do not receive enough thanks. When they wonder why others do not want to listen to them or utilize their expertise. 

I’ve lost count of how many times I had heard this: I want to volunteer, I offered my services, why “they” are so picky and do not want me? Why am I not receiving thanks for helping out?

For me, it means that this person does not want to volunteer. They simply want a payment of a different kind. Because when you volunteer, you just give. You give and never ask for something in return. Sure, it feels good when you hear “thank you for all your do!” but that is not a reason why you volunteer.

Also, when you do volunteer, you do the whole thing. There is no “dirty work.” If you want to support this cause, you will do whatever is required in the current situation. In many cases volunteering activities are scary. Or at least uncomfortable. That is a part of the package. 

4 thoughts on “What Does Volunteering Mean?

  1. I basically agree; still there’s yet another point: expecting some sort of confirmation that the cause one thinks is particularly important is also considered that by others. When you mention that you volunteer, say, in a shelter you probably hope to hear smth like “Oh, that’s such an important mission, it’s great that there are people who help making it better” rather than “Stupid waste of time, that’s all useless anyway”. AND when talking to the staff and sharing your ideas on how your volunteer job might be better organised people equally expect the recognition of their expertise. Of course, sometimes newbies have ideas anyone with some experience understands won’t work, so they just get dismissed. Quite often it’s simply a communication problem…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh, I am so glad you are following me here! Let me explain a little bit more. As I’ve said, I didn’t want to describe a real situation, and some points might get lost.

    First, about people’s reactions. I share my volunteering experience in real-life conversations and on social media because 1) I want my friends to be informed 2)I want to recruit more people to support the causes which I find important. That is – most people are polite and do not say precisely what you mentioned :), but the silence is a reaction, which means pretty much this “stupid thing.” I will try to explain the situation to people when they do not have the right information, but that will be it. I got quite a frequent reaction, which is far from being supportive.

    Regarding the interaction with the staff. I know first hand what a tremendous difference a supportive team can make. But still, speaking about the shelter, for example – I’ve witnessed how things may go REALLY BAD there, and I know that sometimes the staff had to deal with extremely challenging situations. And a person who comes there twice a week should not refer to them as “just sitting on their butts.” Even if they appear to be like this for the short time the said volunteer is present. A volunteer might have some new and interesting new ideas, and they should definitely share their ideas. But I think that they should not presume they are smarter and know better because they have a higher education level or something of similar importance.

    My apologies for not being specific – ) think I’ve already shared more details than I should have….


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