By Anonymous, Contributing Writer

So last year, 2014, I made $3000 dollars! Yep, me, a college educated professional. There are many reasons and we do not need to be go into but a nasty divorce several years ago has a lot to do with it. So what does this have to do with volunteering? Well, these past several years I found myself “volunteering” my time and services to several organizations because I felt it would help me find new meaning in my life and a way to reconnect to people in a way that would be less selfish and healthier. As Yoda would say, learn a thing or two I did.

I feel volunteerism is critical to the fabric of our communities, especially those that are striving to create better opportunities for their youth and those that have had a streak of unfortunate events, however, there is a point that this work does become circumspect because of how much time a person is asked to give.

My concern is simple; we have lost regard and appreciation of other people’s time and we have lost the appreciation for our own. We need to be aware that those volunteering their time should be able to benefit in a manner that is more practical and not so emotional.

In my opinion, work is work; regardless of weather you get paid for it, and in this world, most people rather not pay. There is a saying that you are not considered a professional until you get paid for the work you do, I tend to disagree. I don’t need to justify why; I just do.

Here is a definition; pr o f e s s i o n a l / p rY» f e S H (Y ) n (Y ) l / a d j e c t i v e
1 . o f , r e l a t i n g t o , o r c o n n e c t e d w i t h a p r o f e s s i o n .
2 . ( o f a p e r s o n ) e n g a g e d i n a s p e c i f i e d a c t i v i t y a s o n e ‘ s m a i n p a i d o c c u p a t i o n r a t h e r t h a n a s a p a s t i m e .
n o u n ; 1 . a p e r s o n e n g a g e d o r q u a l i f i e d i n a p r o f e s s i o n .

So, the professional is a professional regardless of getting paid. As a “volunteer,” most people are viewed as just having time to waste and their participation is good for those individuals because it helps them do good, which they should do so that they can feel better. What if we looked at them as collaborators and designed a plan that would either help them enhance their skill sets and prepared them for opportunities that can help them earn more or advance in their career or heck, help them get a job.

Most organizations will buy the equipment, tools or property necessary for their projects and do not invest on who will make all of those things work as they hope someone will just be so excited that they will do the work for free. It makes sense that organizations will do this because it means that they have durable and usable equipment, regardless of weather people stay or go, and they have something to show for the money given them, and the volunteer, does not have to stick around. A professional who does not need to feed himself or his family and is willing to pay for the gas and does not need to turn the volunteer “opportunities” into something she can benefit from is rare.

So how did I get here? I let my feelings misguide me. Now, when making “volunteering” choices I still take my feelings into account, I just don’t allow them to cloud my reasoning and not question when I feel something is not right just because I feel bad for someone or hope something can be rectified much later. In my experience, the latter just does not happen. There is no question that most folks running these organizations are generally well intended. They not trying to hurt you or anyone, but at times, they do anyways. I found myself in a situation that I never in my life I thought I would go through, asking for gas money! Two years ago, when I started realizing that we all need to examine how what we do serves our purpose, I went through a tough time, I lost my faith in people. I lost my faith in justice, but I found a friend, my selective self. There are several things that go out the door when finances are an issue, pride and ethics. Not because people are bad, but when they are hungry, they are hungry, and if they have family that is hungry, well bad combination.

So how did this happen? Well I believed in the intentions rather than the practical reality. Once I finished my MBA I was approached by folks that had great projects, and needed “guidance,” and these felt like all the opportunities I needed were there for the taking, and I never considered how they would affect me, now I do. If I volunteer now, I ask myself two questions; who is this going to help, and how is this going to help me?