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Posts Tagged ‘values’

Volunteering — Making Life Meaningful

The breeze, the trees, the honey bees— All volunteers!
– Juliet Carinreap

We are all engaged in our own activities, depending upon our age and circumstances. Youngsters utilise their time in studies and in their overall development, grown-ups (people between the age of 25 and 65) usually spend most of their time in earning a livelihood and seniors (over 65 and officially over 60 in some countries) lead a relaxed retired life— a life meaningful for self and society, i.e. a life of volunteering, without taking any stresses which the other two categories (youngsters and grown-ups) seem to have.

The model which I have portrayed is the traditional one. With the passage of time huge changes are taking place in the world geographically, politically, economically, socially as well as culturally, resulting in a changed mindset. With this shift in the society there is also a significant shift in the above mentioned model. The first (youngsters) and the third (seniors) categories are not very happy with their conventional lifestyle any more. Both feel bored and want to utilise their time in a more effective and efficient manner. The middle category (grown-ups), busy in earning money, sometimes just to make both ends meet and at other times to save for the rainy day or to satiate their quench for ‘more’, does not have the time to think about any type of boredom.

Youth and seniors then, choose to go with the second category of grown-ups as well. They try their best to earn money as they find it the most worthwhile and beneficial task. Both the youngsters as well as seniors have developed their own logic to justify these actions. The first common reason is that earning money helps them to utilise their spare time or the time which they consider to be ‘unproductive’. Another reason which youngsters give is that they need money for some of their other requirements like cellphone, games, junk food, other technological and recreational needs and they also need money for their tuition fee. The logic given by the seniors is that they can’t afford the same luxurious lifestyle with the money which they are receiving as a retiree as opposed to what they used to have when they were working fulltime. Some of them even argue that they will need more resources in old age and it may be hard to survive with the limited, fixed amount they receive after retirement.

It is very hard to counter the reasons which both youngsters and seniors give in favour of doing paid jobs but if we look minutely, this practice is definitely decreasing the quality of life they are leading. ‘Quality of life’ is a vast term and if we open our mind, only then do we realize that money is a small contributor in enhancing the quality of life. There are many other things which contribute to quality of life. For example, they can use their spare time to make meaningful changes in their own life as well as in the life of others— changes to uplift humanity.

Seniors can use their expertise in volunteering at many organisations and can become major contributors in building a sensitive, strong and caring society. They can help the people older than them, they can conduct moral education classes for children and youth, help the youth to refrain from drugs and other delinquent behaviour. They can participate in many more community development activities. They can initiate new schemes to help the weaker section of the society. The satisfaction and sense of achievement which they will feel being involved in these kinds of activities will lead them towards divinity. It will give them contentment. They will be able to help their family in a better way and will also give back to the society much more by following such a lifestyle.

Youngsters should also realize the importance of volunteering their time. In most of the developed countries there are some mandatory volunteering hours which a student has to do in order to graduate. I have met many such students in community libraries and in other settings, working as volunteers. However, I was disappointed by their lack of interest and enthusiasm. It demonstrates the failure of adults to show them the importance of such a noble act.

Volunteering can help them to develop a sound moral character. It also helps to find a suitable career in future. By volunteering in different organisations and setups they will find out where their interest lies. Volunteering is an opportunity to learn as well as to serve.

Developing countries, as part of their development plan, should also modify the educational curricula with a volunteering component in it. Educators should thoroughly make youngsters understand the value of volunteering. Doing something for free does not make it insignificant. Instead it brings dignity and honour.

By focusing on youth and seniors I am not eliminating the need of volunteering for grown-ups— between the age of 25 and 65. Every one of us has a moral duty to do our best to contribute to the society by giving what we can afford either in terms of wealth or in terms of time.

— Prashant Shori

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Jay’s father taught him many lessons of life. He thought that moral education is something that kids should learn at a very early age. At school, when Jay read the story with the moral, ‘Honesty is the best policy’, he came home and asked his dad what it really meant. His dad explained that it means that you should always be truthful. It always ends up making you happier in the end. Jay listened carefully as his father said, “Sometimes it is hard to be honest, because you get greedy or think that you will get in trouble by being honest. You just want to take the easy route of lying and putting the matter to an end. However, it never works out. It never gives you peace. It also usually gets you in more trouble than the trouble caused by being honest. So remember Jay, when you feel like you cannot face the truth, try it and you will feel a lot better. Even if it will give you some hard time for a little while, it will make you a very happy man for the rest of your life.”

The little boy thought about it. He thought of the time he had lied to his mother when she had asked if he got any homework. And his dad is right – the small lie did not let him sleep peacefully that night. He also did not do very well on the test at school the next day, because he hadn’t done his homework. It would have been so much better if he had been honest in the very first place. He decided he was going to give honesty a try.

For several years, Jay practised following truthful behaviour. When his teachers asked him why he wasn’t able to complete his assignment on time, he spoke the truth and said he did not understand it, instead of saying that he was sick or that he had to go somewhere with his parents. As a result, his teacher gave him extra assistance, which made him feel good and helped him learn better. He started to do really well at school and was able to score high enough to get admission in a good Senior School that would help him prepare for his entrance examination to for Architecture – his dream since childhood.

His honesty became a good influence for his friends. In the beginning, when Jay used to tell them that he cannot lie to his parents about skipping class that day, they used to make fun of him. But they soon saw how relaxed Jay was compared to them. He did not have to hide anything from anyone. He was not stressed about anything and could easily concentrate on anything. Moreover they saw that teachers liked and helped Jay with his work. So, his friends stopped making fun of him and instead started admiring him, some openly and others secretly.

His family was really proud of him. Their son was setting a good example for his little sister to follow. Even when he made a mistake, Jay was quick enough to admit and apologize. That created an atmosphere of togetherness in the family. His parents trusted him and shared some of their ideas and opinions with him as they saw that being honest, he was a responsible child.

After finishing Senior School, Jay sat for his entrance test. He thought he did fine, but had to wait patiently for the results. A few days later the results were announced. Jay’s score was good, but not good enough to get him into one of the most prestigious Universities of the region – where he was hoping to go. His parents, who loved him a lot, saw his disappointment and were slightly disturbed as well.

The next day, at work, Jay’s father was approached by a man who had heard about his son’s test scores. He said, “I have a contact at the University your son wants to go to. Since his marks are not too far below, they might accept him, if you arrange for some cash to go under the table.” The man was asking for a bribe! Jay’s father’s instant reaction was to shout at this man for even thinking about such a thing.

But on second thought, he walked away and started thinking. If he accepted this offer now, he could fulfill his child’s dream! Not only that, it would be a matter of pride for the entire family to have their son studying in such a reputable institute. His eyes would glow with brightness when he would mention Jay in front of his relatives and acquaintances. Maybe he should consider this deal.

When he went home that evening, he was very pensive. His mind was occupied in making an important decision about the life of his son. Sensing his tension at the dinner table, his family asked him what he was worried about. For a moment he was quiet but then he decided to share his dilemma. As soon as he presented the problem to them, Jay opened his mouth to say something. “There you go”, his dad thought, “He is so excited to hear about this. I think I should do this.” But Jay was saying something totally different! To his dad’s great astonishment, Jay said, “Dad do you remember what you had told me once? You had said that even if honesty will give you some hard time for a little while, it will make you a very happy man for the rest of your life. I will be happier if my conscience is clean Dad. And I know that you will be too.”

Jay’s mother and father had tears of joy in their eyes! Dad had learnt a lesson from his young son today. He knew that his upbringing had been successful. The little offshoot he had been nurturing all these years was now a hale and hearty young tree that was ready to bear fruit of the very best quality!

~ Miles To Go…

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