By Sandra J. Cohen and Roger Cormier
As we grow older, we give thought to how we want to spend our time, energy and resources for our own satisfaction, but also to benefit others. How can we resolve apparent clashes between our desires, our values and dire needs of people near and far?
There are no easy answers. If we are open, patient and willing to explore what options might arise from such complex decision-making, we can discover choices that are “both/and” rather than “either/or.” What we choose to do with any discretionary funds does not need to be selfish or altruistic. It can be both self-satisfying and beneficial to others.
Take the following situation: You have set aside savings to spring for your lifelong dream of a certain vacation abroad. The very thought lifts your heart and puts a grin on your face. However, you feel guilty that countless people in other countries and your own community cannot afford such travel and have no means to meet life-threatening nutrition and health care needs.
How can we make decisions in the face of such seemingly competing values? Logic often fails us. We can “justify” taking that trip on the grounds that we earned our savings, deserve such a treat, and will come back refreshed and ready to give more of ourselves to others. We also can defer to our conscience’s logical imperative to spend half of our set-aside on a modest trip closer to home, and half on a substantial donation that is sure to save children’s lives in a Third World country.
Logic often needs to be complemented, however, by some combination of our intuition, dreams, input from others and fortunate coincidences that seem to confirm the rightness of a choice. Regarding the dream vacation or major donation decision, we might happen to see an article on “voluntourism” that combines back-to-back volunteer and travel opportunities within a wide choice of countries. Or we might stumble on a timely book about ways to use our resources to save lives by cutting back on things we do not need in our daily lives.
Explore this example of “both/and” decisions that we may face at www.voluntourism.org and “The Life You Can Save: Acting Now to End World Poverty” by Peter Singer.