- Margaret Mead
Volunteerism, in its conceptual form, includes the individual or collective efforts of willing individuals, known as volunteers, to act in ways which work toward the betterment of oneself, other individuals, communities, and/or society. This definition remains subjective in its ambiguity regarding the meaning of betterment, as well as in the sense that the means to bettering oneself may be in direct opposition to the means necessary to better another individual or society. Despite the subjectivity of this definition, this general description of volunteerism is necessary for communication within the same framework and reference in this discussion.
In our Christian language, we may prefer to call volunteering, serving. Service moves from mere physical motions to human action (Wuthnow 1991: 45). Service incorporates all aspects of our humanity, instead of just the physical need at hand. Love, justice, compassion, action, presence, and understanding embody the cultural framework of Christian service, to which this human action refers. Service goes a step further than volunteering one's free afternoon to dish out food at a local soup kitchen; it sits down and eats with the homeless and shares in their experiences.
The general volunteer trend in the United States is one in which an individual volunteers his/her time, services, or funds. As Newsweek's article "Powell's New War" demonstrates, most Americans perceive volunteering as: an act in which one must do something and nice gesture which has benefits. Though this observation is a generalization, rarely do Americans view voluntee...
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...l as in the method to accomplish it. One connection however, is their similar quest for creating a framework of support in which persons can feel valued and needed. The idea of accompaniment reflects a similar notion of the mentoring relationship found in Powell's model of volunteerism. The difference, however is that mentors take on a parental role, while the goal of accompaniment is to stay away from any sign of paternalism.
Aaker, Jerry. Partners With The Poor, New York: Friendship Press, 1993.
Alter, Jonathan. "Powell's New War." Newsweek 28 April 1997: 27&SHY;37.
Chambers, Robert. Rural Development: Putting the Last First. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1983.
Ohrt, Wallace. Accidental Missionaries. Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1991.
Wuthnow, Robert. Acts of Compassion. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1991.
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