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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

To Serve is an Opportunity

"Many Are CAlled But Few Are Chosen"
Twelve years ago, this corner came out with an article of the same title. That article shared some insights gained from a Holy Week retreat, a retreat that centered on the Good Samaritan's deed's vis-a-vis a victim of robbers, in contrast to the reactions and actions of the Priest and the Levite. Recall that Jesus told the parable of the Good Samaritan in response to the question, "Who is my neighbour?" by a teacher of the law.

The article reads: “Both the priest and the Levite were holy men, but compassion was absent in their hearts. In contrast, the Samaritan, who is supposed to be an outcast of society at that time, responded to the need of the victim and even went beyond just providing first aid.

The story actually did not end when Jesus was able to force the teacher to discard his own biases against outcasts. He challenged him to put God’s commandment into practice. Actually, Jesus, on the night He was betrayed, refined further the commandment by changing the measure by which we love one another. From using as basis the way we love ourselves, He teaches us to love others the way He loves us. And what greater love is there…

Reflecting on all these, my mind shifted to the role volunteers play in a coop. I have always maintained that volunteers give coops the competitive advantage. Can you imagine how coops will price its services if their officers’ honorarium is high?

And my mind went to the next question: How much should coops remunerate their volunteers? What is enough? If we go by the original concept of coop volunteers, they get no pay. They are just reimbursed of actual expenses incurred in pursuing coop business. Coops in Western countries, and in South Korea still practice this.

This corner always stands for an honorarium that approximates a volunteer’s actual cost in pursuing coop business. Anything beyond is no longer volunteerism. The argument that our coop is already big and can afford to pay bigger honoraria is over-stretching the meaning of volunteerism.

The other arguments why we should not pay extra to our volunteers are: a) volunteers volunteered to serve; they were never hired; b) the extra honorarium is an attraction to those who are not really out to serve, sometimes easing out those who really have service in their hearts; c) dissensions happen prompted by desires to get the or cling to positions because of high honorarium; and last but not least, d) to serve is actually an opportunity to serve God in others.

Let me just dwell on the last argument. All of us are called to serve, to extend ourselves to others, and to be good Samaritans. Serving the coop therefore, without pricing our services beyond what is necessary is an opportunity. And very few are actually given that chance. The priest and the Levite were offered the chance to serve God beyond rituals but turned it down. The good Samaritan, despite being an outcast, grabbed the chance and earned God’s favor.”

With a new set of officers assuming the leadership mantle in our coops, it is good to revisit the importance of volunteerism to coops. It was already pointed out that volunteerism is the competitive advantage of coops. The absence of real volunteers leads coops to fall prey to opportunists. Decay follows.

In a recent gathering of coop leaders in Manila, one well-meaning national leader stated, matter-of-factly, that it is important to give good honorarium to coop leaders. “If you give peanuts,” he said, “you will attract monkeys.” To this, one of the participants retorted: “If you give cheesecakes, you will attract mercenaries.” The laughter that followed the witty exchange ushered in a deeper realization on the part of everyone in that meeting of the importance of real volunteers to coop stability and growth.

Excessive campaign spending, even vote buying, are now present in many coop elections. Some are prompted by the prestige that comes with leadership. Others hope to use the coop as springboard to capture political positions. Still others just want to have the position, including the opportunity to travel, even if they offer nothing to justify his/her pursuit of it. Worse are those who just want the honorarium. Of course, all of them readily proclaim that they want to serve.

The aforesaid motivations of aspiring leaders surely clash with coop values that call for selflessness, service, good governance, volunteerism, and sacrifice. The sad thing that could happen is when the real volunteers, usually laid back people, recoil from the aggressiveness of the opportunistic aspirants and withdraw or just give way. The coop movement ends up the loser.

The same thing is happening in our country’s political governance, at all levels. Well meaning people with the heart to serve are reluctant to run for positions. Even if they have money, they are not willing to spend to buy votes. Their principles limit their actions. But the buayas will always be at the forefront in vote buying and cheating knowing that they can easily recoup their expenses once elected.

Let us all pray that our coops will not fall into the hands of mercenaries or opportunists. Let us watch the actions/actuations of those who are now in leadership positions, even as we pray that they will realize that to serve is an opportunity. Let us hope that they will recognize that they are now important building blocks in the building of God’s Kingdom here on Earth.

To coop volunteers, we see how those less in life struggle amidst the exploitations that abound. We can be just like the Priest or the Levite concerned only of our own needs and ignore them. Or we can be Good Samaritans by making sure our coops are refuge of those in need at affordable cost by becoming real volunteers.

This is something we can look back to with pride as we relate our contributions to our grandchildren. Let that realization be our just reward for the services rendered to the coop.

This article started with a biblical quote as sub-title addressed to coop volunteers. We are in the season of lent, so let us end with another, this time addressing both the coops and the volunteers. “Those who can be trusted with small things can be trusted with bigger things.”

Here’s hoping that we will all have a deeper appreciation of the meaning of the passion, death and resurrection of Christ this Lenten season. Only through that that we can have a real HAPPY EASTER.
by: Isagani B. Daba

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