The Power of Voluntary Actions

I have been helping a friend with her finances. She called me up yesterday and we got to talking about volunteer work, which I see as the heart and soul of money-free living.

I volunteer a lot – probably enough for it to be considered a full-time job. I work in a cafe, a bar, a library, a food co-op, an allotment (in theory) and do a lot of environmental work which includes putting on events, researching, writing and attending a staggering quantity of meetings.

The thing is, when people ask me “what do you do”, I don’t know what to say. Aside from the fact that I question the whole notion of “what do you do?” meaning “where do you work?” and all of the underlying assumptions that includes, I genuinely don’t feel like I “go to work”.

I don’t look at my five hours of “work” in the cafe, for example, and think – hang on, I’ve just done five hours work which at minimum wage would mean I earned about (whatever it is at the moment) and that means I have to consume X amount of food and drink today in order to feel like I spent my time well. I think what I’m aiming for is to contribute to everything I take from – but with time and energy rather than money. I don’t have a way of working out how much of one thing equals another. I want a volunteer-run, not-for-profit cafe/bar to exist, therefore I will put as much energy into it as I can.

It’s because people do this that things like that do exist. If everyone measured their time according to tangible rewards there would be no social centres, community projects, activists, or affordable not-for-profit spaces… only a lot of Tescos. I know there are a lot of ‘clone town’ / ‘ghost towns’ now that are just a lot of Tescos, but I think there is also a movement against all of that which is pro-community, and community involves (to me) putting in time and energy just for the love of it, because that’s the kind of community we all want to see.

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