The other day at the marriage counselor’s, the issue of volunteeringcame up. My daughter, a high school freshman, is trying frantically to rack up some volunteer hours for her resume.“You need it if you want to get into a good school.’ She tells us and we agree. But what bothers me is that even this benevolent act of volunteering, like almost everything else in this country, has turned into a business.
It so happens there are for-profit clubs, operating outside of school campuses, whose business is to hook you up with volunteer work for a fee. I don’t know. Either I’ve been reading too much Albert Camus, or this is way too absurd.
Whatever happened to calling up hospitals , seniors homes, or homeless shelters directly and just volunteering to help? Have we become so anti-social, so robot-like that we need go-betweens for doing things so personal?
At any rate, as we continued on this subject at the therapy session, the counselor, who has many an Iranian client, pointed out that volunteering doesn’t seem to be a popular pastime among Iranians. She is right. Iranians may be considered a somewhat charitable lot but compared to our American hosts, we certainly don’t volunteer a whole lot, not here in Americaand not in Iran.
It seems like volunteering is just not part of our culture. I know, I know, there may be sporadic episodes of exception here and there to this over-generalized assertion, but, as a whole, we Iranians don’t like the idea of offering our services for free no matter how worthy the cause.
Thanks to our illustrious history, we have been conditioned to regard authority with suspicion. We have kept ourselves busy fighting the system, not helping it. For so long we have been rising up against oppression, tyranny, and cruelty. This struggle has sapped our energy, and more importantly, left us with little or no peace of mind to even begin to ponder concepts such as volunteerism.