Despite all propaganda of the negative tendencies of human beings in the trumpeting media, movies and soap operas; the fact remains that human life cannot survive without help, co-operation and reciprocity. Interdependence is the nature of life. It starts right at the moment a mother wakes up during a night to look after her infant. Where ever or whenever, we keep our own interests aside and try to be useful to somebody or some cause; we’re actually being volunteers.
In the present age of consumerism, competition has been over emphasized. This encouragement of blind, cut-throat competition has resulted in los of negativity, mental complexes, and psychological complications. The world becomes what we make of it. Reality has a tendency to follow dreams. If we dream powerfully enough, our dreams are bound to turn into reality. Thought is in the driving seat; action is in the seat of the follower. When we talk about an idea, we are popularizing it and prodding others to follow it. It is high time human civilization focussed on its humanitarian aspects. I accept that animal side of our species cannot be fully ignored. But when it comes to proportions, the scale must always bend towards humanism. Focus is a serious way of creating reality.
Volunteerism can be spontaneous and it can also be organized. Many times strong, intuitive, spontaneous, and sudden volunteerism later finds expression in organized volunteerism. For example, the strong emotions felt by Henry Durant later resulted in the globally empowered Red Cross. The other day, the story of a woman, Sachi Singh from Lucknow was coming on TV. The cry of a child on Charbagh railway station that she heard when she herself was a child made her make the station free of child labor. She said that the piercing cry remained with her and as she grew, she knew her mission in life. Such is the power of humanism.
Volunteerism is the best method to cut barriers. Tears are tears all over the world; blood is red wherever we go. When blood spills, it is human blood anywhere in the world. The point to note is that when we help someone, we are actually fulfilling our own deep desires. A part of us is always conscious of the artificial boundaries among countries, religions, races, castes, and colors. Reaching out to others is realizing the common thread that binds us all- the human breath.
No need to say that history is stuffed with examples of great volunteers. As an Indian I cannot think of a better example than Gandhi. An ordinary man rose above his selfish self and became what we now know as the Mahatma. Christ gave his life for humanity. If we put aside all rigid and ritualistic part of Christianity, Christ becomes a pure symbol of love, overflowing, and powerful love. Jesus, in fact, had no sense of self. He dissolved himself into the multitude of humanity. That is why the trashing of the so called fallen woman painfully came on his body. His self and the self of the suffering, outcaste woman became one.
As an Indian I’m reminded of the theory of Karma which simply says that one should help others in order to help oneself. Whatever we do comes back to us. ‘Zindagi definitely milegi dobara.’ We need to do good actions not for others but for ourselves. The fact of the matter is that we desperately need people who may receive our love. We should be thankful to the recipients of our kindness and compassion. Everyone needs such recipients. Many times, when a mentally troubled person goes to a psychologist, the psychologist advises her or him to spend time with others, to help others, to listen to others, and to be of use to others. It’s a sure and short method of driving unhappiness away. The moment we focus on others and try to be of use to them, our own problems vanish into the thin air.
Happiness, as we all know, is a state of mind. After the initial stage of material comforts, happiness means finding one’s own motivation; it means forming a mission in life. There are too many purposeless people in this world. Volunteerism is basically designed for volunteers. There are people who cannot help helping others. We all know Sudarshan’s legendary story, ‘Haar ki Jeet’ where Baba Bharti, out of pity, gave his beloved horse for riding to Khadak Singh, a con. As Khadak Singh mounted on the prized horse and rode far, far away, Baba Bharti shouted running after him, ‘Don’t tell anyone that you cheated me because people will stop helping the needy and trusting each other.’
It leads us to a very significant area which demands a clear-cut definition of the purpose of volunteerism. Sitting on the stage, getting awards and honors, receiving attention and flowers, giving speeches, being listened, being important and finally being powerful are the ordinary motives of volunteerism. It explains the blooming NGO industry in India. Tremendous caution is required. Volunteerism, if distorted, can become the parasitic ego booster. It erodes self. There’s lots of volunteerism in this for self-glorification. I say that it is worse than no volunteerism at all. The path of a true soul is that of a razor’s edge. Help must never be an ego-boosting exercise. But to put things in the correct perspective, there is an inherent contradiction here. We need to talk about good volunteers because like all other human traits it’s infectious and yet the volunteer has to be self-effacing. We need enlightened and informed volunteers whose basic concepts are properly in place.