Editorial: Giving to be happy

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Volunteerism, call it the gift of giving unselfishly of yourself.  For many years, maybe as long as OBSERVER has been in existence, we have lamented the shift away from volunteerism in our bit of paradise.  It is very likely a world-wide shift as we all become more selfish and self-centred but it is more than a bit depressing when we think about how we have moved away from being our brothers’ keeper and towards a more lazy, wait for the government or someone else to do it mentality and attitude.
The topic of volunteerism came to the fore of our consciousness after Rosemary Reynolds appeared on the Voice of the People and opined that in order for young people to become well-rounded individuals, they need to be more involved in volunteer activities.   We couldn’t agree more. Our society is strengthened by volunteerism, and any society that supports and encourages volunteering is a society that cares for and promotes the well-being of its citizens.
It is said that volunteering is the ultimate exercise in democracy. The reason is, you vote in elections occasionally, in our case, every five years or so, but every time a person volunteers, they vote for the kind of community in which they want to live.  They vote with their time and their compassion: all in the service of others.  This is essential to the positive psyche of our community because it is the foundation of the concept of a caring community.
Reynolds summed-up volunteerism quite nicely.  She did not shy away from the fact that volunteering can sometimes be hard work, but she made the point that it is rewarding work.  Even for people with selfish motives, volunteering can produce benefits such as allowing a young person to stand out in the crowd and have an advantage in a university application.  Selfishness, however, is not a characteristic of persons who willingly volunteer.  Volunteers are generous, happy people, and we have pointed out before, very likely the happiest people on the planet.
We made that point about a year ago, when we praised George and Sandy Bahri for their volunteer work in soliciting much-needed donations for the Mount St. John’s Medical Centre (MSJMC), and their family’s work in supporting the renal society.  George and Sandy gladly give of their time to ensure that others are more comfortable when they have an unfortunate visit to the hospital and if you have ever met them, they are some of the happiest
people you can ever hope to meet.  That compassion represents the best of us and we should all aspire to nurture more of those qualities in ourselves.  
Volunteers are worthy role models.  Forget politicians and celebrities, we should cast our eyes and attention towards those in our society who participate in the community for no reward other than improving the lives of those around them.  Some refer to them as unsung heroes, but they shouldn’t be.  We should heap praise and admiration on them rather than wasting it on people who do little for our communities or will only assist for reward.  It is for this reason we can easily get behind Reynolds and her push towards creating more of those role models.  What is particularly exciting about her and her associates’ non-profit organisation called ‘Youth Today’ is, it targets youth from the age of 19 to 22.  These formative years are key in the transition towards adulthood and maturity.   This is a time where you begin to find your purpose in life. 
That purpose in life is probably best summed up by William Shakespeare who said, “The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.”   We hope that Reynolds and her associates can help young people find that purpose in life and commit to volunteerism throughout their lives.  
To give you an idea of the power of volunteering, consider this:  if half of our population were to volunteer just two hours every month, it would be the equivalent of over 600 people dedicated to doing good deeds for our society, full-time.  Can you imagine the power of a 600-person army of do-gooders roaming across Antigua and Barbuda?  We would take paradise to another level. 
So the next time you are considering whether or not you should get involved or should volunteer some time, we urge you to go right ahead!  As Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: What are you doing for others?”

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