So many of us are worried about the state of the economy and benefits being cut when just a short time ago, not much of either really concerned us. Unfortunately, many of us who thought we were “safe” from the perils of a misguided life or even “bad luck” find ourselves in the same predicament as those we thought didn’t keep a close enough eye on the prize.

And as we worry about our volatile investments, rising food costs, and a diminishing supply of whatever else we need, is it really the time to be answering a call to give more of ourselves for nothing (tangible) in return? Yes.

As anyone who volunteers their time and energy by helping the poor, the elderly, after school programs, or the disabled knows, there is a feeling of accomplishment and pride to be had at giving selflessly of yourself without promise of reward. Because what is learned through this valuable experience is that nothing of material gain can truly replace the inner joy and satisfaction that come from the intent and the ability of oneself to make a positive difference in another person’s life.

How appropriate in this time of instant gratification it is to suggest a longer way to humility, confidence, and self-esteem? They say that what is gained through hard work and sacrifice is appreciated on a deeper level. But how can those who are used to being entertained at the press of a button or receiving needed information in seconds process this concept of actually leaving the confines of their comfortable homes, giving old-fashioned minutes and hours of their lives, and exerting actual physical and mental energy to help someone else – and without remuneration?

The idea of volunteerism in this country has been simmering on the back burner for years now with whispers of it being uttered by a few of our leaders every so often, until now. The call by our new president for our citizens to possess “a willingness to find meaning in something greater than themselves” is the only trophy we should need.

And when our president said, “…we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task. This is the price and the promise of citizenship.” Surely that privilege should be enough for us.

How quickly would those suffering in the Middle East and Africa change places with us or at the very least trade the memories of what they have had to endure for a few hours of community service? No rolling of the eyes or sighs of contempt would come from them, nor would excuses even enter their minds.

I think, as Americans and citizens of the world, we owe a debt not only to our country, but to ourselves to experience the pure sensation of being human without anything to guide us but our hearts, minds and spirit, and without any benefit but that which we give to ourselves.

Author's Bio: 

Audrey Valeriani is an author, writer, relationship coach, and board chair of Self Esteem Boston Educational Institute, Inc. Her book Boot Camp for the Broken-Hearted: How to Survive (and Be Happy) in the Jungle of Love (New Horizon Press Books) has been named Finalist in the National Best Book 2008 Awards. Contact: