Humor Therapy— A Volunteer’s Lament

Circa 2006

When it comes to volunteering, I’m usually the first to speak up… in fact, I volunteer my wife all the time. I knew she’d be dying to chair that PTA strip-tease-a-thon—I just hope I don’t have to pay to get in.

It’s tough to be a volunteer, mainly because a volunteer is usually given a job nobody else wants to do. Let’s face it, you rarely ever hear, “Would anyone like to volunteer to take a week off from work and go to the Bahamas and lie on the beach?” No, it’s usually something like, “Okay, who wants to clean the toilets today?”

But volunteering does help you think on your feet. “So, who wants to take Grandma to the grocery store?” Your mind races. “I can’t. I have to… have to… go to the… thing… the dog show. I got… tickets… a year ago.”

Many of us are afraid to make that commitment to volunteer. What if something better is going on—like a baseball game or a shopping spree? Do you really want to give up Cracker Jacks or a Macy’s sale to scrub graffiti off a highway wall? And besides, that graffiti is really modern art with a statement—the world needs to know that the Crips rule and Jenny is a slut.

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Why is it so hard to volunteer? Is it the commitment? Is it apathy? No, the bottom line is that we’re just selfish with our time. Why build a house for the homeless when there’s probably something good on TV… like Columbo Joins the Brady Bunch Reunion on the Love Boat? Besides, this is a what’s-in-it-for-me world. There’s just no incentive to volunteer… or is there?

There are benefits to volunteering: the joy of helping someone else, the good feeling you get deep inside, the great excuse it gives you to get away from doing household chores. “I can’t fix the garbage disposal today, Honey. I volunteered to help out at the church Casino Night. You don’t, by chance, have a couple bucks on ya?”

Plus, when you’re standing before God and you hand him your list of accomplishments, you’d better have soup kitchen in there somewhere, or you could be looking at some time in Hell. And don’t try to pull a fast one—believe me, He’ll know if you embellish your resume. He knows everything, even that you faked that shoulder injury to get out of jury duty (and He’s pissed). God wants people to volunteer because it lightens His load—even the Almighty needs a little free time to get a massage or grab a smoke.

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There’s a good chance you don’t think about volunteering until something bad happens and you need that volunteer spirit from someone else. “A little help here, please? Come on, you know I’d be there for you,” you’re quick to plead. But who are you fooling? When it’s your turn, the old shoulder injury acts up again. I’m telling you, you’re missing out. There is a euphoria in helping others…and it’s better than mint chocolate chip ice cream or watching someone smack into a door they were supposed to pull instead of push. Remember, what goes around comes around. Last week, I got a flat tire, and I know it’s because I cheated on my taxes in 1991.

Look, I know you work hard all week and it’s tough to reach out. But volunteering should be a part of your life, like… like brushing your teeth once a week. I mean, think of all the bad things you did in your life—teasing the chubby girl in first grade, lying to your parents about going to the library when you really met your high school sweetheart at the mall. And let’s not forget the under-aged drinking. I’m just scratching the surface here… and now my head. Time to make amends and clear your seedy past.

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We have young men and women who volunteer for the armed services, putting their lives in jeopardy to make the world a better place. Children sell lemonade for hurricane relief. Good citizens give up their Saturdays to rescue stray animals off the streets, so these impressionable creatures won’t pimp out their furry bodies for biscuits or get hooked on the catnip. (It’s never pretty watching someone’s pet throw its life away.) Kudos to all the helpers in the world.

Will society judge you if you refuse to volunteer? No, public pressure shouldn’t make you do what you don’t want to do—that’s a wife’s job. Only you know what’s best for you. But to answer that question, of course we’ll judge you. Judging you gets you to volunteer, out of fear that we’ll judge you. Look, I volunteered to write this article, so now it’s your turn to do something. Start out simple. You can begin by washing my car.

By Jeff Charlebois

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