The other day a couple of colleagues of mine and I decided to take a stroll down to the corner frozen yogurt shop across the block. The blazing afternoon sun demanded refreshments! So, we chose our favorite flavors and toppings and picked a table to sit at.
Anyway, our chit-chat continued and the conversation went from ‘How’s the day going so far’ type tidbits to ‘What are you doing this weekend?’ type questions. One of my colleague was making travel plans to India (he was getting married there) and the other one was planning to drive somewhere out of town too.
Now it was my turn to divulge what I was doing over the weekend. ‘I’m volunteering’, I said. ‘For a local non-profit.’
Not that I volunteer a lot- I’ve done it just 3-4 times now. I usually don’t mention my volunteering activities at work or within friends too (except a few, of course). I did it that day though.
‘Why?’, one of them asked.
‘What do you mean why?’, said I. I was expecting a question more like, ‘What non-profit?’ or ‘What would you be doing?’, etc.
‘What’s in it for you?’, he said.
And this time the other colleague responded (on my behalf!), ‘Nothing, of course, it’s volunteer work. You do it for free, by definition!’
Hmmmm. I kept quiet. That was that. Then I think we eventually talked about the non-profit I was going to volunteer for and the type of work I was going to do.
But that ‘Why’ bothered me a lot though. I never really gave a thought to what was in it for me! Was it really nothing? I don’t think so. I’m no saint. I don’t do anything for free!
So, why do I do it?
I think it’s the guilt. The guilt of living a comparatively luxurious life than many others. Maybe what they would call a ‘dream life’ is what I take for granted ……. so, yeah, there’s this guilt.
Or maybe the responsibility? To give back to the community where I live? Cliche but true, perhaps.
Or it may be for self-satisfaction- so I can proudly tell (mostly myself) that ‘I did something nice, for someone else!’ and feel good about it.
So, to sum it up, I do it to live a guilt-free, responsible, self-satisfied life! There. Nothing comes for free!