Civic Project Objective: Fulfilling Course Objectives 2 &
The focus of my civic project will be that of volunteering at a blood bank and assisting with the process of orienting the donors, helping them physically recover after they have donated blood, and making them comfortable afterwards, including ensuring that they have enough food and accommodations to lie down after the procedure. I feel that this is a worthwhile project, given that blood bank reserves have dropped in my area. I feel this is a way that I can help out and perhaps encourage my friends who are capable of donating blood to assist in the effort. I also think the experience will be particularly instructive because it not only enables me to act as a volunteer myself, but to work with other volunteers and explore what motivates people to 'give of themselves.'
Over the course of the readings, I was particularly struck with Robert Putnam's Bowling Alone, and his idea that American civic engagement and a sense of involvement with the community had ebbed away. This sense of responsibility to others often conflicts with the American spirit of independence. Yet as noted by Alexander de Tocqueville, capitalist, American self-interest is often counteracted by American's love of forming voluntary associations. This stands in contrast to becoming part of centralized bureaucratic institutions, in contrast to the government and religious structures of Europe in the author's native France. Thus, for the purposes of my project, as well as attempting to see if voluntary and active participation was necessary for a meaningful life, I am also curious to explore Course Objective 2 and the idea of the social, political, and moral contributions of America's Judeo-Christian inheritance where a moral tradition is seen as relevant and necessary to motivate individuals to deal with contemporary challenges. I wish to examine people's reasons for volunteering and to engage in self-exploration as to what benefits I accrue and to see what brings individuals to become volunteers.
Week 1 great deal of this week was spent 'learning the ropes' and was very similar to other professional, entry-level jobs I have had in the past -- only less intellectually challenging. I admit that rather than deriving personal and emotional benefits from my tasks this week, I found myself much more concerned with simply doing a good job. For example, one of the donors felt faint after donating, and I had to be particularly aware and alert to catch her fall. Some people donating blood seemed relatively unaffected, physically, by the process of donating blood while other people needed more assistance afterward and even beforehand, if they were frightened of needles. I was very impressed by people who overcame their fears to donate blood, as well as those who donated regularly and had not fear. (Fortunately, I am not afraid of needles!)
Week 2 have discovered that people donate blood for a variety of reasons. Some of people donate blood because they seem to have a temperament and a nature that is very altruistic, and they participate in many other, similar efforts in other spheres of their life. Others donate because they feel they have a responsibility to do so, even if the obligation is a voluntary one, given that they had benefited from the contribution of other blood donors when they were seriously injured. This seems to echo the need for a moral as well as a legal foundation for American democracy to function, in terms of maintaining the health of its people. Other donors were not so altruistic, saying that they were allowed to take time off of work or school to donate blood. However, they said that even though their motivations were not entirely lacking in self-interest, this still meant that they felt donating blood was a 'good thing' and they were always glad they had done it. Many of them said that as long as they could remember, they had participated in blood drives at school or at work, and regarded donation as a regular event or part of the year. (They also joked that the cookies and juice were a nice bonus!)
It was interesting to see how volunteering is not necessarily a moral activity in many people's minds, but what Putnam might call a civic rite, much…