Today is the International Volunteer Day, established by the United Nations in 1985 as an International Observance Day, to celebrate the power and potential of volunteering and to recognise those who volunteer worldwide.
It is a day to raise awareness of, and gain understanding for, the contribution that, volunteers and volunteer organisations make to their communities and world in general. It is a unique opportunity to celebrate one of the most fundamental human traits – generosity and the ability to act selflessly.
When we talk about volunteers, we usually have in mind organised community work during catastrophic events, economic deprivation, or war, but it is more to it. It is also about daily altruistic acts.
At a time when we are confronted with more negative than positive news on a daily basis, people are overwhelmed by the negative side of humanity and stop believing that true altruism exists and that anyone could be capable of doing good, unless driven by self-interest and a hidden agenda.
But humans possessed altruistic nature from the beginning. This natural behaviour surfaces especially during extreme events where people help each other, even if sometimes that means risking their own lives. And this is not new. For hundreds and thousands of years, people have risked their own safety in order to help others expecting nothing in return.
In the distribution of altruistic genes, evolution exercised its clever strategy, and while not all people have the same capacity for altruistic action, everyone has the ability - if we look closely, we can witness selflessness in everyone, at least on some occasions.
To see the altruistic nature in everyone, we need only to change perceptions, and instead of recognizing the voluntary work of prominent and wealthy people or large organizations, we should realize that many locals share discrete and humble generosity for years. This could be someone trying to help disadvantaged children, abused women and old neighbours; Someone who buys food to the homeless, sponsors travel expenses for a traveling monk; Someone who distributes flyers for charities; Someone who shares vegetables and fruits from own garden. Altruists have many shapes, and each of them is a real-life saint, and a keeper of humanity.
And this day offers the opportunity to celebrate the altruistic nature of humanity. We should begin by honouring those who have devoted large parts of their lives to helping those in need. Or we can also find a way to help someone. This does not mean that we should drop everything and move to a “third-world country”, because regardless of where we live, there are people who need essential things like a roof over their heads, clothing, a hot meal, or just a little bit of love and attention. And it is not just about helping people, but also other living beings and nature in general. Whatever we choose, a good intention is powerful only when it is followed by action. Only then will you find the experience that is more rewarding than a salary could ever be.