12 July, 2012

Volunteering is a big-time category of human activity in the American social culture, and discussing it herewith might trigger some controversy, so the disambiguation of possible controversy might help a lot. Why am I saying American? 

Because I have spent a serious chunk of my lifetime in the United States as a very active (and well-known too) television journalist, and there I have witnessed many instances of volunteerism, performed by my relatives, friends, colleagues and acquaintances with absolute sense of altruistic action, aimed at the idea of giving people a better quality of life without any axe to grind. Volunteering in America is overwhelming. Americans volunteer to work, expecting no remuneration. They contribute personal funds to various purposes, take care of the needy and the sick, adopt children even if they have plenty of their own, clean the neighborhood, help churches, schools and nursing homes, do hospices, provide medical and educational assistance. It is also true that the contributed funds are exempt from taxes, which works as a motivation for attending to other people’s needs. I am not statistically versed in the subject but I can imagine that the aggregate good done by volunteers in America might constitute tens of billions of dollars worth. The reliance of America on volunteers in performing important social and educational functions definitely deserves a good deal of our attention. It probably takes a certain level of societal development to recognize that serving people free of charge, using personal skills, interests and learning for making the fellow citizens happy, is a superior human obligation. Volunteers usually do this for feeling of self-worth and respect instead of money. For good people, volunteerism is not another piece of boring drudgery, done for obligation, but a delightful opportunity to have fun, to achieve self-satisfaction, to pleasantly socialize and develop certain new skills that make them better personalities. What is the picture here in Georgia? It is a far cry from what is happening in the Unites States, which I know better than Europe – that’s why the emphasis on America! There is tradition of volunteerism in Georgia too. Bringing back the scenes of my childhood, I remember my maternal grandmother’s village neighbors helping her voluntarily with silkworm nursing and harvesting, although granny still had to feed them when the work was done. Same thing happened in corn fields and vineyards, tea plantations and orchards, but grandma was expected to help the neighbors back when time came. Volunteerism in Georgia has not yet taken deep roots. We still need to learn how to do it. There is sporadic volunteering of course on part of those with better sources of income although it is hard to get money out of their pockets unless they see the end very clearly and in their favor. Not all of them are this way of course. On the other hand, it is not only the volunteering culture that matters. The legal side of the matter plays the role too. Who knows, volunteerism could flourish more if the law provided for an incentive to volunteer. Let’s wait and see. After all, we are still learning how to look and sound Western. It takes time though, doesn’t it?