Should Volunteerism Be Mandatory?

By Joe Little
Public Relations Manager, New York City Rescue Mission

When I was a child, my family and I would volunteer at our church or little league. It was cool to play a role in the upkeep of a valuable place-- for the inestimable benefit of many. Decades later, when my wife and I started our own family, we would volunteer at church or little league. It was voluntary service -- the key word being voluntary (from the Latin voluntarius, meaning will or eager).

If we are great at all, most of our greatness as a family (and
nation) comes from a grateful-to-God willingness, even eagerness, to assist others -- a trait which Alexis de Tocqueville noticed as early the 1830s.

Times change.
Nowadays (i.e. USA 2009), I am the public relations manager at the non-profit New York City Rescue Mission in Lower Manhattan. I see volunteers here all the time; they are a life-blood here at America’s first rescue mission. We love them. They could be somewhere else, but they’re here feeding the hungry, giving rest to the weary or encouraging the hopeless -- but they are willing and relatively eager. It’s a bit harder to generalize about our community service "volunteers"; theirs is coerced service at best, involuntary service at worst. I don’t see eagerness when they’re serving here.

So, I’m not sure how to respond to reports of legislation that would mandate volunteerism. On the one hand, if someone calls us here at the Mission and heeds our common-sense
volunteer guidelines, we are receptive; but sullen students going through the motions in order to "get it out of the way"? That’s a tough nut!

Suffice to say that we’re wary with community service volunteers, but
I recall that God wants us to open our door to the sad, sick and sullen. And, within reason, that’s what we’ll do.

Do you share Joe's view or have some different thoughts on mandatory volunteerism? Click here to let us know what YOU think!

Below are some of the thoughts you sent our way...

Comment 1 -- Kathy Hagerty / North Vernon, IN
First, isn't mandatory volunteering an oxymoron?? If it is mandatory, it's an order. Doesn't military service count? I 'voluntered" and served 12 years in the U.S. Navy. Actually, I would love to volunteer, but we only have one vehicle, and my husband drives it to work, my time is spent at home, volunteering to do laundry, cook and do the garden and yard work, does that count also?

Comment 2 -- Rick Castillo / Olathe, KS
Volunteerism should be a joyful exchange of a person giving of themselves in an unselfish manner for a cause they believe in and feel strongly in their heart has legitimacy and purpose. Forced volunteerism violates the basic premise of giving of one's self for the benefit of others. Being forced to do something results in a contradictory context of the word volunteer. What makes volunteerism so successful and meaningful to people is the "free" exchange of time and resources. This can only truly be rewarded through the connection individuals share in their heart. True volunteerism comes from within, not a mandate from the Government.

Comment 3 -- Bill Harris
I agree with Joe completely.

Comment 4 -- Karen Harmon / Farmington, NM
If it’s mandatory, it’s NOT volunteering. Just one more ignorant thing Obama came up with.

Comment 5 -- Alan Chase
Mandatory volunteerism is an oxymoron. It isn't volunteerism if mandated, it's conscription. But then the whole world is being turned upside down by the statist-leftist crowd. Good is now evil and evil is good. My problem is that this should all make me feel good according to the new administrations play book. In truth it makes me ill!

Comment 6 -- Kathryn Kokkila
When volunteerism becomes mandatory, it is then called "slavery".

Comment 7 -- Gert Davenport
What an oxymoron. How can mandatory equate voluntary? It sounds like we voluntarily pay mandatory taxes. Passing a law requiring volunteering is plainly stupid. It open's the door to all sorts of misconduct. Can you imagine a mandatory volunteer working in a medical facility dispensing medicine. My oh, my, what mischief could be done with what horrible results. The gratifying results of volunteering will be forever lost if volunteering is mandatory.

Comment 8 -- Lynn Waterman / Nebraska
The very name of "mandatory volunteering" is an oxymoron. Volunteering is a personal choice brought on by our believing and serving our Lord. Mandatory Volunteering is nothing more than slavery! If we are commanded to "volunteer", we are no longer free, we have become a slave!