What’s in it for me?

1 Jan

As we stand on the cusp of another US Presidential inaugural address and, with bated breath, wait to hear what the newly elected President-designate, Trump, has to say on 20 January 2017, I cannot help recalling John Kennedy’s speech 56 years ago, in particular, his stirring conclusion: “And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country……..Finally, whether you are citizens of America or citizens of the world, ask of us the same high standards of strength and sacrifice which we ask for you…..”

We have just come out of the festive Christmas season.   In many households, the occasion brought a glut of excess – over-eating, over-sleeping, over-drinking and everything else that could smack of degeneracy.   However, it was also a season of giving. In particular, I am thinking of the thousands, if not millions, of those who gave up their own celebrations to be of comfort and bring happiness, joy and companionship to those that were much less fortunate than themselves.  In particular, I pay tribute to Crisis at Christmas, which established centres all of the country, providing succour to thousands of homeless people – with warmth, food, drink, medical attention and counselling.   This would not have been possible without an army of volunteers.

Britain punches well beyond its weight when it comes to volunteering.   While there is a cadre of people here and abroad who obsess with the what’s-in-it-for-me when it comes to asking them to do anything, there are many others who are selfless and seek nothing more than making it better for all of us.

Amazing work has been done by volunteers not only in this country but also all around the world.   At school in India, I was fortunate to learn at the feet of a wonderful headteacher, who averred that countries that were rich were rich not because of how much they creamed off from the rest of the world but rather how much they gave to it.

This notion is, perhaps, epitomised by a river, which constantly runs with fresh water.   Water that flows in also flows out spawning life in its currents.   On the other hand, the Dead Sea is where water comes in but nothing goes out. The upshot is that it is so salinated that not only is one able to float but also nothing lives and grows in it.

We appear to be living in a “Me, me, me” era.   However, millions are not seduced by those that are intoxicated by this kind of life.  Rather, they see their role as making the conditions of others better – knowing full well that they come onto this planet in the altogether and will leave with nothing – except their legacies.

The world was saddened to learn of the sudden demise on Christmas Day 2016 of George Michael, the world-renowned singer and part of the former Wham duo.  However, people were uplifted to learn that he was not only an amazing talent but also had a generous heart.  Instances of his humanity were numerous: the occasion when he confidentially donated £15,000 to the woman who lost on the Deal or No Deal programme to fund her IVF treatment, the millions of pounds he gave to Childline provided that his donations remained anonymous, his donations to the Terrence Higgens Trust, the £100,000 he gave at regular intervals to Help a London Child, the waitress he tipped £5,000 to assist her pay towards her student nurse debt and the manner in which he remembered the NHS nurses who cared for his mother.  It was only after he had died that we became aware of his monumental generosity.

Schools governors are one of the biggest groups that give generously of their time and talents gratis.   While some are motivated by the lure of control and power, anecdotal evidence suggests that most are concerned with leaving a positive impact on the children in their schools’/academies’ care.   They bring to bear their professional expertise from the world of work and in some cases wisdom from the insights that they have gave through living worthwhile, productive lives.

I, personally, have been privileged to work with and for many such people who want nothing by way of recognition – in cash or kind.   They are a pretty amazing lot who add value because of what they want to do for our education system rather than ask of the system what it can do for them.   The spinoffs for many are great.   In the world of paid work, they capitalise on the experiences they have had as school governors developing professionally in their daily, paid jobs.

However, they are not in it for material gain.  The work they do for our schools, consequently, is priceless.  During the festive season, I could not help thinking of them.   In a clumsy way, I salute them.  For one person, at least, school governors’ labours are recognised and appreciated. May they continue to flourish in 2017 and beyond.

2 Responses to “What’s in it for me?”

  1. Diane Bennett January 1, 2017 at 7:01 pm #


    Happy new year. I read this with a personal interest. I volunteered at crisis, for the first time, this year for two days. Next year I plan to do it again, and to do more days.


    Sent from my iPad


  2. davidsassoon August 31, 2017 at 4:11 am #

    That’s really lovely. I wish more of us do what you do, Diane.

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