April 25, 2019

30. Volunteering

“Tell me what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” -Mary Oliver


One of Greg and Pricey’s favourite books is ‘Legacy’ – the story behind the huge success of the All Blacks, their team culture and influence within New Zealand society. One of the key elements in that book is the concept of ‘giving something back’ – of leaving the team and the team culture better and stronger once you have moved on. This week’s podcast is about volunteering – about legacy and making the world a better place for all.

Pricey has been involved for many years with young adults who make a difference. He comes alive when he sees young people working with a refugee, an asylum seeker, a homeless guy, etc., and there’s a buzz about it. There is an energy about it. You think, yeah, something’s happening here that’s going to leave our world in a better kind of way.

Volunteering is built on a belief, that the world is not the way it should actually be. Our world’s not meant to have huge gaps between rich and poor. It’s not meant to have one tribal group or ethnic group or whatever killing another tribal group or ethnic group. All the pain that we see within our world, that’s not the way it’s meant to be. There’s something in every human being which we believe says, “How can I make a difference? How can I leave the world a better place for all?”

But this call has to be YOURS. At Universal Man we believe that each of us share this calling to make a difference – but in our own particular way. Everyone of us would find some particular issue that frustrates us and calls us to do something. For example Greg doesn’t like global warming, it doesn’t fire him up to really go and do something about it whereas issues like men’s health do. That’s why we started Universal Man. There’ll be an element that you (everyone of you) are called to engage in. At that point, you might not even know what it is that you’re going to do. You just know that there’s something you want to change and sense that you can be a part of that change. There’s a movement you want to get involved with, and if you don’t get involved with, then the world won’t be a better place.

Everyone’s got to do whatever their particular thing is. Almost without exception, there will be a fear at the very start. For example, the first time Pricey went out with a van and worked with people living on the streets, he’d” never done it. He was probably about 40 years of age and never worked with homeless people. He was shit scared. You know? He got out there, and quickly found out they were just wonderful people and they just made him feel accepted.

Regardless of what you do, at the beginning you are going to be a little bit out of your comfort zone. But ask what is your particular thing? What’s your way you can make a difference? Listen to the energy within you. What’s the issue which fires you up the most? What’s the issue that you’ve got a bit of natural energy around?

In the end, this is about being authentic in your engagement and never forgetting why you’re there. It’s a real genuine relationship and a friendship. Greg’s volunteered for a number of organisations over the years. “You feel like you belong, like it’s a magnificent friendship, where we understand each other, we understand what we are passionate about. It just makes sense. It’s a really good thing.”

Your motivation for being involved in the particular issue is very important. Remember your motivation for being there. It’s not about you. Absolutely not about you. Greg and Pricey have both spent a lot of time in volunteering organisations. People can get a bit lost. Just remember that it’s not about you. Why are you there? Never forget that.

One of the terms Pricey uses – he says there’s a crap detector. Now, when you’re with, let’s say, a group like asylum seekers, refugees, homeless people, little kids from very poor homes, whatever group you are actually working with, if you’re there for the wrong reasons, the other will sense it immediately. If you’re there as a saviour, you’re going to fix them up, you’re going to make the world a better kind of place, it’s going to look good on your CV, they will sense it immediately. Their crap detector will immediately go off.

Pricey has been out in a street van so many times, and the homeless guys will say to me, “Hey, see that one over there – he’s one of those do gooders!” And they will kind of sense it, because there’s a patronising presence in one of the other volunteers. Many years ago Pricey was working down in Sydney. He was working in a homeless shelter. This young guy turned up one particular day. He was a young man studying to be a member of the clergy. He didn’t know that Pricey was, you know, kind of a clergyman too.

He walked over to Pricey at this homeless place, and he said, “Are you okay?” Pricey remembers looking at him and going, “Yeah, I’m quite okay.” He said, “Oh, do you come here often?” Immediately, he assumed I was one of the homeless guys, but he was talking to me, and he was talking down; patronizing. Pricey’s crap detector just went off bad.

How you come into volunteering and why is very important. If it is to be the hero and the saviour, and doing it for your CV or so that you can say something in a social setting then it will be hollow. Sometimes that can happen at a real almost unconscious level. It just eats away and affects the way you engage. That’s a big pitfall when you see volunteers turn up doing it on their terms rather than the terms of the organisation that’s leading the way or even more importantly on the terms of the guests of the organisation.

One other one of the key things we’ve seen from time to time is that volunteers, because they’re not being paid, they can often feel like they’re a bit special. Like their opinion counts a bit more. They’ve got a bit more power because someone else is being paid to be in the room. They almost feel like the organisation should listen to them a bit more or the organisation should serve them rather than the other way around. The power gets the wrong balance to it, completely flipped. That’s a real trap.

The heart-set and the mindset of volunteering is what is key. In volunteering, you must come as a guest. You come to the other, and it is a relationship. It is an equal, reciprocal, relationship. If the guest comes to the relationship gently, slowly, and in a really respectful way, magic can really, really happen. The other one will kind of sense it.

There’s this beautiful organisation that’s all around Australia and New Zealand now called Orange Sky. It’s an organisation where a group of young people said, hey, can we get a van out there with the homeless and give them an opportunity for a shower and to wash their shirts and things? If you ever listen to the guys from Orange Sky, it’s all about relationship. It’s all about friendship. When you’re on about those things, the other people sense it, and you turn up at the scene, and there’s a sense of community there, there’s family. People go away feeling really, really special. It’s not “I’m saving you, I’m good, you’re bad.” It’s just a community. Just things like every person who’s there has got a particular story. It’s a sense of, doing our little bit to make the world a better place for all.

That’s just magic. What it does when you engage like that, you feel far, far better as an individual about the contribution you’re making, as opposed to if you were playing it for a different reason. It’s a magic way of doing it. And it really has a fantastic effect upon you. You’re not doing it for the effect. That’s the end result. But we’ve got to know that it is really, it’s needed, our world needs everyone, and everyone, to put up their hand, say, can you serve on a board? Can you work on a street van? Can you once a year go and work in a charity for a month? Can you do something? Whatever small thing which is you. The size doesn’t matter. It’s big or small.

Pricey’s got a mate who’s a CEO of a large company. Every year for their family holiday, he takes his wife and their five kids, and they’ll visit a different part of Southeast Asia, and they’ll have a wonderful break, but as part of it, they work in a orphanage or in some sort of social service. Now, their kids love it, and the kids, their worldview has stretched. They’ve got a sense of a global village. They’ve got a sense that they’ve got a responsibility to make this world a better place.

You have to engage in a way that is congruent for you at the moment in the chapter of your life you’re in.

If you’re super, super busy, you’ve got a full-time job, you’ve got a couple young kids, it can be really hard to find the time or the money to help out. So, work out a way that makes sense for you. And, if it’s not congruent right now, it’s better not to. It’s better to say your contribution right now is to your family. And that is not just OK – that is good!

And do that. And then in five, 10 years time, come back to it. That is totally okay, and it’s better for your family and the organisation you might be volunteering for if you do it that way.

There’s a beautiful term, Nelson Mandela used to talk about Ubuntu. Ubuntu simply means “I am because we are.” Mandela used to talk about how in Africa there’d be a small village, and when a stranger came past, when a stranger came into the village, someone would open their home. Someone would share a meal. The meal for four would be stretched to become a meal for five. Mandela said it was the spirit “I am because we are.” Ubuntu. That’s what we’ve got to get. We’ve got to do it our particular way.

Stay legendary – Pricey & Grego