The more I think about volunteering, the more I believe that the most important part is not to expect thanks, neither from the people we serve nor the general public. I am not saying people are never thanked for their service; quite often, they are. But it’s important not to expect it. Recently, I was asked why that happens that many people want to volunteer for an important cause right after the crisis starts, but then later, they walk away. There might be several reasons, but often there is a realization that what you are doing is not something glamorous or even heroic, and you are not “a savior.” When you come to help a cause, it’s a job, often not most efficiently organized, with tons of idle time, but it’s a job that needs to be done to make a world a slightly better place.
Another thing that I only recently started to realize is that you should not expect a visible result immediately (or ever). I have thought about this since I attended the meeting with Toya Wolfe at Chicago Public Library.
When I asked her what she thinks an ordinary person can do, I meant something like what should we advocate for? What policies should be instilled? What can be changed in society so that young people won’t end up in gangs? How can we finally stop the shooting, stop the killing? Because it feels like whatever has been done so far, including the Ceasefire and the Interrupters, seems to produce no difference.
When she said: you are already doing a lot; keep doing what you are doing, I thought that she was just dismissive. And then she continued: don’t try to be a God.
I thought about this for a while. I am not a religious person, and I always thought that serving others has nothing to do with religion. But recently, I started to think that maybe it was something with nuns always being the ones attending the sick, running orphanages and schools … Nuns do not expect to be thanked for their services because they serve people in the name of God. And for the same reason, they do not expect to change the world through their service. They just do what they can, and they keep doing it.
And now I am thinking: what could and should be in place of faith for a non-religious person? And can you still selflessly serve others when you have loved ones who are clearly more important to you than the rest of the world?…