Willing servants

His friends call him crazy, but Justin Chan contends that the rewards of volunteering at nations are more meaningful than they seem.

Every once in a while when I’m working at the nation–something I often do–and standing before a mountain of dishes, I ask myself: why do I volunteer my time for this?

Which leads to a bigger question: why do so many students in this city dedicate so much free time and energy to these organizations?

Eight years of high school and university formed my impression that young people generally avoid volunteer work whenever they can. Lund students display a different attitude.

You’ve probably seen the regular volunteers who serve you at the bar and such. But there are also students behind the scenes, organizing and managing the whole nation’s system of operations. These students perform demanding responsibilities, and on some days toil for as long as a normal work day.

If not for the money, what’s the draw of doing work that people usually get paid to do?

From what I’ve observed, strong camaraderie is one benefit. There’s something unifying about working with others towards a shared goal. Especially when the work is memorable—and even challenging—I feel closer to the people I’ve survived the trenches together with. We can relate to each other over memories and shared struggles.

There’s also the gratification of being dedicated to a project that’s bigger than myself. Time set aside for something that doesn’t concern my personal needs is, surprisingly, refreshing. I get satisfaction from knowing that I’ve done something that has other people’s benefit over my own at its core.

Or, it might be the promise of thank you parties with free drinks. These are students we’re talking about, after all.

I’ve questioned other passionate nation members about their motivation to volunteer so much. They count the benefits I listed among their reasons as well.

It seems that the nations have discovered the mythical well of student altruism. They are better than any other organization I know of at capturing a young person’s willing labor without the promise of payment.

What a concept. Under the right conditions, people can willingly perform great feats of service not for money, but for community and a sense of purpose.

I just hope my real job will also make me feel this way.

Share on Facebook0Tweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+0Email this to someone