Over the past few days, there has been a lot of clamour on the news that Malta’s Prime Minister’s wife, Michelle Muscat, was awarded the title of National Volunteer of the Year award. Reactions varied from a general sense of outrage especially by those who devote all their time to volunteering, to irony (I even came across an edited photo of Michelle Muscat’s face instead of Mother Tereza’s – I admit I did slightly chuckle to that), to those who genuinely believe that she deserves it, mainly due to her work within Marigold Foundation and also for swimming in aid of charity between Malta and Gozo.
Why am I mentioning all this? Without going into the merit of whether she deserves the award or not, or whether someone else should have been given the award or not, instead I will try to offer a different perspective of looking at this situation even from my experience as a volunteer with agara Foundation. Starting from the basics and using the Oxford dictionary as my base, what is a volunteer?
“A person who freely offers to take part in an enterprise or undertake a task.”
Why “freely“? Why would someone in his right mind do something against no pay? Why would someone waste his/her own time and energy? Stop and let these 3 questions sink in for a minute before trying to answer them…. The answers to these questions are infinite. Every volunteer will answer in his own different way. But how does this link to the initial story? Basically I focused on the word “freely” because it is in times like this week, when faced with news such as the one mentioned, that we tend to lose sight of why we are even volunteering. My different perspective creates 3 alternative trophies that one may receive from volunteering:
First and foremost, in the act of giving oneself (time, energy, money) to others, I find the most rewarding experiences. Enriching someone’s knowledge through my own, listening and making an effort to try and understand their current life problems, battling through your own problems yet still giving your best effort to be there for those in need… The list goes on and on, and the more I think of reasons which reward me from giving myself to others, the more I confirm that I am in this because it fulfils me in seeing and making the lives of others better.
Volunteering will help you grow, develop and build your character and personality. Working in a team with others, engaging in social interactions, making contacts, getting out of your comfort zones – all these will shape you to make better-informed opinions and open yourself to others. Through my experience in Lebanon, I found that it was comfortably ok approaching Muslim men and women stigmatised globally as being “dangerous”, “bombers” or “suiciders” in view of the numerous terrorist attacks that we hear of.
How many times have we heard the phrase “you receive more than you get“? In a world which is based on votes, profits, likes on Facebook, buildings X amount of storeys high, marks obtained in an exam… basically numbers, numbers everywhere – are we able to identify THE moment which tells you “this was worth it!”? This is the third trophy received through volunteering. It is the different part or parts throughout the voluntary experience that hit you straight in the face and make you smile when reflecting back on the part/s.
In an age where materialisation is at its peak, especially during this period where gifts are flying around during Christmas season, let us stop and reflect for a second what is the true meaning behind a volontorious act. Start appreciating more the little acts you do or receive from family members, friends, loved ones and even strangers!
Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas, full of love, health and peace.