Charity and Civic Participation

Reflecting on the amount of time I spend volunteering for various political causes and campaigns I wonder if it is as valuable as charitable service. They both involve donating time and energy to a cause greater than one’s self. Sacrificing time and energy in order to better humankind. However, the question remains… are they equitable?

One one hand, actively participating in the political process allows us to help influence policy affecting large populations. Whereas, the amount of people one can help via charitable service is limited to one’s individual limitations. The amount of people you are able to serve in soup kitchen in an average day, pales in comparison to the number of people assisted by a policy providing funding for the program that keeps the soup kitchen open.

On the other hand, those engaging in political activism may have ulterior motives. Take this guy for example…

Maybe an extreme example, but the simple fact remains, that many people are active in the political process these days because they seek a certain level of power. Some do it because they believe it’s their best chance at making the positive change the world needs. Others seek the title and the fame. Regardless the motivation, civic engagement for the sake of personal gain seems to give the edge to charitable giving.

However, charitable work can be done for similarly selfish reasons. Some might do it to gain the respect and esteem of their neighbors and peers. Others do it as part of their spiritual duty. While the good done remains the same, the motives behind the deed are far less selfless.

Do the motives dictate the worthiness of the activity? To an extent maybe. However, it doesn’t change the fact that people genuinely benefit  both from direct acts of charity and indirect policies passed with the help of those actively engaged in the civic process. Perhaps both acts of volunteerism are equal after all, and its up to the individual to determine which they are most suited to.

Perhaps, one day someone will come along who can restore balance to both sides of the spectrum…

One can always dream.


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