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Why Can't We All Just Get Along?

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Steve and Susan react to recent news stories and observations that perpetuate some frustrating thinking about volunteers. Volunteering is either undervalued or over-valued, elevated to selfless sainthood or seen as a means to the end of teaching the middle class to love others. Some excerpts from this essay:

From Steve:

…Now I suspect that Mr. Roy came to his conclusion following a great deal more thinking that Mr. Sanders brought to his, but I’m not sure that his conclusion is any more rational. Each distorts a realistic look at volunteering, one by undervaluing it and the other by over-valuing it. Each seems struck in the interesting mindset that what a person does can only be valued by what they are paid to do it. People who have this mindset have a hard time thinking reasonably about volunteering, and they generally end up either putting it on a pedestal or else treating it like a momentary aberration of the slightly deranged – one that should be tactfully ignored in a politely capitalistic society.

From Susan:

I realize that I am now in danger of alienating some readers, but I honestly have never understood the goal of selflessness. It makes me wonder:

    • Given the conscious intention to be selfless, isn’t there the danger of selfishly using the person in need for the volunteer to feel spiritually holy? Thereby ending up as the opposite?

    • Why is it necessary to “leave one’s ego at the door” in order to serve? Isn’t it more genuine to bring yourself fully into the relationship with the person to be served? To share your skills and talents generously?

Steve and Susan then start a list of Suggested Universal Principles of Volunteering, to which readers can feel free to add their own Pet Peeves.