Staff Editorial

Charity. Volunteerism.
Community outreach. Lending
a helping hand. Whatever you
elect to say, it is a safe bet that
everyone has participated in
some form of service through
donation at least once in his
or her life, though as the
holiday season rolls in, one
may begin to question the
motives behind this generosity.
“‘Tis the season to give!”
reads the sign beside the Salvation
Army bucket as you drop in a
few dollars on your way into the local
grocery store. For a brief moment,
a warming sensation of gratification
spreads throughout your nervous system.
You feel good about yourself and
your miniature achievement in making
the world a better place.
Although this is just one example
of serving, the feeling of altruism
seems to apply to all forms, and it
could possibly be the key to explaining
why people engage in such activities
that do not have a direct and immediate
reward.
In a national survey conducted by
the Association for Psychological Science,
respondents reported that one of
the major reasons they choose to volunteer
is the feeling of growth and development
that they experience. Other
reasons include seeking to learn more
about the world, gaining career-related
experience and using volunteering to
reduce negative feelings or to address
personal problems.
The findings seem to suggest that
altruism is merely egoism in disguise.
Or in other words, service activities
are motivated by our own self-interest
rather than intrinsic concern for the
needs and wishes of others. Although
one receives no physical compensation
for donations or voluntary involvement,
he or she is repaid through
emotional stimulation. However, every
human action is pursued in order
to appease a certain emotion, need or
inclination. So, if altruism is psychologically
impossible, volunteers certainly
should not feel shame for lack
thereof.
Tangential to the issue, many clubs
and organizations require their
members to complete a set number
of service hours each year.
For instance, Beta Honor Society
requires students to complete a
minimum of 15 community service
hours and National Honor
Society requires the same. So,
if the service being done is a
requirement, are students really
getting involved out of the
goodness of their hearts or to
merely receive credit for being
in a club?
Is this so-called “service” selfless
or self-serving? A mixture of both?
Whatever the case, participating in
such a cause results in some sort of
reform, whether it be more money going
towards goods for those who have
very little, or homeless people receiving
sandwiches due to tireless hours
put in by volunteers. The US Department
of Housing and Urban Development
estimates that approximately
610,042 people in the US are homeless
on any given night, 35 percent
living in unsheltered locations, and
these numbers will only grow without
the help of dedicated individuals.
So, as one passes by the Salvation
Army bucket at his or her local
Walmart or signs up for a volunteer
opportunity for a club or organization,
do not fret or delve into underlying
motives, give so that those who have
little may receive

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Author: The Hawk Eye

Hanover High School, Mechanicsville, Virginia The Hawk Eye Student Newspaper thehawkeye@hcps.us

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