Donating, Volunteering, Shadowing

  1. If you need motivation to get started, you need to understand that you have ridiculous privilege compared to most of the world. This includes your health, education, lack of melanin, and family farm from generations ago that Abe stole you from the Native Americans. No you didn’t work to get where you were, you were born into it. Once you realize that………
  2. If you donate an object you used, that means you are giving your trash. If you donate a brand new object that you bought, that is much better, but you need to understand the needs of the recipient, and most donors of objects never do. If you give the recipient money, that is best. Whether the recipient is the panhandler on your street corner or in a village on the other side of the world, don’t question what they will do with the money. Just let it go. There is significant research that cash is best, and some literature that suggests giving to the matriarch of a family is even better.
  3. If you spend $1500 on a flight to go somewhere for a month to help others who live on $15 a month, you need to check your intentions at the airport. They have plenty of smart people where you are going, they don’t need you. Stay home and send the money instead. If you give $100 to a cause but make $100k a year, that is lame. If you find yourself giving 40% of your income, now we are talking!
  4. If you get paid money, what you are doing is not service, it is a job. Even risky employment like firefighting or military is still voluntary employment, unless you were conscripted.
  5. If you get a free T-shirt or sticker for your volunteering, consider that pay. It cheapens your effort. If you buy an unrelated product in order to donate, remember that a large part of your donation is going to the unrelated product, like Girl Scout Cookies or when e Chipotle gives some kickback to your school. It’s a terribly inefficient method of giving, but if thats the only way you are going to motivate to, then go eat some burritos and cookies.
  6. If you have to compete to do something, even if unpaid, that is not service. Becoming a fireman takes tremendous competition because it is a prestigious job even if unpaid. Find something that no one else is doing, and you will be on a better path of service.
  7. Recognition also cheapens service, because ego boosting is worth more than money. I once was involved in an organization that espoused service but gave nonstop plaques, patches, and photo opportunities for social media. Don’t be that person. Some people call politics service, even though that involves competition, recognition, and pay. I suggest you give your money and time as anonymously as possible. (I wish I could still be anonymous, but I realize I have some kind of inspirational role here.)
  8. If you give three hours to an endeavor, that’s kinda lame. It probably cost the organization more effort to deal with you than the benefit you gave the organization. If you have devoted years of your life, that’s fantastic.
  9. Here is a recipe to increase your service in a big way: Reduce your own lifestyle (car, house, objects) so you spend less. This may mean you have to move to a poorer neighborhood and take some risks (like your kid not getting as fancy an education?), but that will get you closer to a target service audience anyway. This is privilege alleviation as a voluntary method of wealth transference, because our capitalist tax system doesn’t do a good job of that. If you want to make a difference, you have to give up privilege until you are inconvenienced. Take what you save on lifestyle reduction and give it to others, either directly or by donating large amounts to some organization that helps others. Or, since you will need less income, change your career to one where you make less money but make more of a difference, using whatever current job skills you have. Of course none of this is easy, but if you want easy, just give $100 or three hours of your time.
  10. You want to start small? Here is one tip to get you started: carry cash. Forget your skinny jeans or your cell phone credit card holder. Carry a wad of ones, fives, and tens every time you leave the house. Give them to panhandlers, leave it for tips at your hotel or for the person who cleans your rental car, or just pay small businesses with it rather than using your credit card for everything. If you don’t know why small businesses prefer cash, go ask your mother. Let your kids see you giving cash to people less fortunate: that is more impressionable for them than your massive online donations. If you can’t bring yourself to follow this tip, then fake it til you make it, and soon your lifestyle of service will become second nature.
  11. Another tip: be early wherever you go. Read the first few paragraphs of this article. Even if you don’t have money to give, you will recognize that you have time you can give.
This is making a difference in a small way, but I needed a picture…



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P.J! Parmar

P.J! Parmar

Social justice efforts of a family doc, scoutmaster, and social worker for refugees. Since 2012.