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In Service to Others

Posted on April 7, 2019 | No Comments on In Service to Others

According to Russian-American philosopher and novelist Ayn Rand, the ultimate moral value of each human individual is his or her own well-being. Since selfishness is, according to her, a rational concern with one’s own well-being, it turns out to be a prerequisite for the attainment of an ultimate moral value. For this reason, Rand believes that selfishness is a virtue.

Using Rand’s philosophy, how do we explain those people who willingly give their time, energy, and resources to others who are less fortunate? Are these people so deluded that they are only fooling themselves, and that volunteerism is nothing more than a selfish way for some people to feel good about themselves?

Armed with these questions, I began querying some of my friends, relatives, and former colleagues—people who’ve done (and are still doing) volunteer work—about their insights, and what made them decide to afford their precious time to people they barely know.

I started my expedition in my alma mater, the University of the Philippine Los Banos, where an old friend, Romel Daya, teaches at the College of Development Communication. Daya is a former volunteer for Ugnayang Pahinungod, an organization inaugurated in 1994 with the aim of making the university a more caring academic community.

According to Daya, his volunteer stint started as a spur-of-the-moment decision to do something worthwhile one summer. “I’ve nothing to do. I’ll get bored if I went back to my hometown,” shares Daya. So he decided to enlist as one of the volunteers who’ll be sent to one of the evacuation sites in Pampanga for refugees of the Mount Pinatubo eruption.

“It was an eye opener,” shares Daya. “As pampered and sheltered citizens, we were unaware of the real condition that lurks outside the university walls.” Indeed, a few weeks’stint as an undergraduate volunteer made Daya decide to pursue a full-time career in Pahinungod after finishing his degree. “It was like addiction—the urge to serve was overpowering that I continually look forward to traveling far-flung regions of the country to extend my organization’s services.”

When asked if he felt burnout during his tenure at the volunteer organization, Daya replied “not at all.”

When hard work means less stress
No one can deny that volunteerism is hard work—long hours, meager pay, unpredictable schedule. But if this trade (if you may call it that) is not rewarding, why do people keep on affording their time, effort, and resources to others without expecting anything in return? Do people get any—say, satisfaction or gratification—by doing volunteer work?

Volunteering often brings satisfaction and joy to a person’s life, but it can also serve as an effective stress reliever. Whether it is the act of giving back to the community, bringing happiness to another person’s life, or the personal sacrifice of your time and energy, people tend to feel grateful and at peace with themselves after volunteering. The labor and energy it take to do volunteer work can also be a big stress reliever.

An idea that Daya shares. “The pay may not be high, but the gratification that I feel after giving my time and energy to other people in need is priceless.” According to Elizabeth Scott, MS, a wellness coach specializing in stress management, “helping others, altruism, and finding meaning in life all have their hand in stress management.” She said that giving one’s time and possessions to others will not solve one’s problems, acts of kindness and volunteer work can provide the following effects:

Positive sense of self. This can help one to feel less reactive to stress, and bring more enjoyment to all activities that
one does.

A feeling of connection to others. A sense of community, a supportive circle of friends, and other forms of social support can increase one’s resilience, longevity, and quality of life.

A sense of meaning. This helps us feel our stressors seem more manageable and less threatening. A clear perspective about one’s stressors. Changing one’s perspective will help in making one’s stressors seem smaller and, thus, manageable.

A reminder to feel gratitude. Gratitude makes us expect less and, therefore, look at life from a different perspective. When we feel gratified, our whole life feels better and the things that we lack seem less important.

An opportunity to use one’s own unique gifts. When we’re battling burnout in a job that we don’t like, having outside activities such as volunteer work “feed our soul” that challenge us in ways that make us feel alive.

Something to think about other than stress. There’s nothing like distraction to make us forget the monotony of our life. And distraction from stress can give our body a chance to recover from chronic stress and feel healthy and calm again.

All of these effects, according to Scott, can help with stress management. So the next time you clean your wardrobe, why not take the clothes you no longer use and donate them to the nearest charity? Or spend your time lending a hand to the nearby orphanage. The possibilities are just endless—all you need is some time to spare and the willingness to help others.

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