Youth Forward scholarship 2016 – Defining a Volunteer

Name: Brandt van Soolen
From: Monmouth, Oregon
Grade: College Senior (Bachelor's Level)
School: Western Oregon University
Votes: 19

Defining a Volunteer

What does it mean to volunteer? For some it is a simple commitment
of your time, an agreement to forego some of your weekend, or
personal time, to help the causes that you are most passionate about.
For a veteran it is different. In 1992, I took an oath. In that
oath, I swore to protect my country from all enemies foreign and
domestic. That oath was not forced on me, nor was it a requirement
that I took the oath. It was simply a commitment of my time, an
agreement to forego my personal freedom in the pursuit of a greater
ideal viz., the defense of all freedom enjoyed by the citizens
of the United States.

However, 1992 was not the only time I took that oath. I could easily, and factually,
claim that I took that oath an additional three times over the course
of a twenty year career in the military, but the truth is, I took
that oath every day; 7,437 times in total. This is not me exhibiting
hubris; this is me distinguishing the difference ways that
“volunteer” could be defined. There is, sometimes, a belief that
volunteering is something you do to “get ahead”. Perhaps, many
people have said, “if you want show a potential “insert here
college, employer, etc.,” then volunteer. This seems to cheapen
the intent and the purpose of volunteering. On the other hand, would
should be said is that volunteering is showing you are passionate
about the things you believe in.

Whether it be great ideals, such as, freedom, social justice, and civil liberties, or
simple things, such as, being a big brother, helping those less
fortunate than you, or even donating anonymously to a charity. All
these are definitions of volunteerism, and each one of them is
instantiated through a recognition that we are all compassionate
beings by nature. The only way we can truly be human is to recognize
both the tremendous heights, and the unfathomable lows of the human
spirit. When we help those less fortunate than us, when we agree to
forego our personal liberties and freedoms for the sake of others, we
are making a choice. We are choosing humanity before self-interest.

Why do I enjoy volunteering? I enjoy it because I know that I am radically free to
choose everything I do in life. I know that when I make choices, the
effects of those choices are wide reaching. They do not just affect
me; those who may not have the same natural privileges of health or
birth as me also feel them. I volunteer, because I believe that
people matter. Each person is precious, and each person is entitled
to the same amount of freedom and liberty that I am.

So, what does it mean to volunteer? It means an incredible amount more than just a
commitment of time.

Join our Facebook group "Volunteers for a Better World".