What We Learn from Cartoons (Pokémon Edition)
“Do you always need a reason to help somebody?”, asked our favourite Pokémon trainer Ash Ketchum.
I was surprised by the deep lessons found in our cartoons. It got me thinking about other life lessons that were just as striking, and fell to this thought:
The Pokémon franchise is well-known for close relationships between Pokémon and their trainers. More than battling pets, they were best friends. And what if I told you that us volunteers are a lot like the Pokémon we grew up loving?
Okay, here me out. Let’s take Pikachu for an example.
BFF Goals! Image credit: Pokemonget
Anyone familiar with the Pokémon genesis knows that Ash and this iconic yellow rodent did not get on well at the start. Ash had attempted to force Pikachu into a Pokéball, who retaliated, and led Ash to tie him up and literally drag him down the road while berating, “he’s just like all Pokémon and he should act like one.”
Who would have known that they would be inseparable afterwards?
“How about no?” Image credit: Giphy
I would’ve bet a thousand dollars (okay maybe not) that this is akin to how many volunteers started their volunteering journey.
Maybe their friends persuaded them to get involved, or they were in it for the VIA hours, but these expectations come with some inertia and resistance. It gets ugly especially when challenges kick in, because the motivation to be of service had not come from the heart.
If volunteers see service as bridging connections with those being served, and respect these beneficiaries as equals like how Ash and Pikachu eventually did, a strong bond between volunteers and beneficiaries is inevitable.
Believe it or not, I’ve met volunteers who didn’t have trusting impression of volunteerism before they started their own volunteering journey.
Although youths all around Singapore are actively encouraged to take a step to make a positive difference in the community by volunteering, there are many who ask, “What’s in it for me?”
Also, fun fact, this was how I started too.
But hey, the view here as a volunteer isn’t so bad after all.
It went from “help I was dragged into this volunteering thing” to “time to show my friends why I love to volunteer!”
And you, how have your thoughts and impressions about volunteering change?
“Did you forget about me?”Image credit: Pokemoncrossroads
Okay, another one.
Bulbasaur, the grass/poison type Pokémon was clearly wary and distrustful of Ash when they first met and challenged him to a battle before letting Ash take him along.
Eventually, they both warmed up to each other, and Bulbasaur became the responsible leader amongst the Pokémon. He is frequently seen as the ‘protector’ among them.
Does that sound like you?
Stepping into a new role requires guts, especially when as volunteers, we realize that we’ve become very comfortable where we’re at. Stepping up as a leader in any aspect definitely opens doors to many new challenges and opportunities to grow.
The roles and responsibilities of a leader may come across as intimidating and we may be wary about how we can handle these new challenges.
But hey, you could be a Bulbasaur, and develop into someone people can depend on. Snag it, when the opportunity to grow presents itself.
“I have grown so much, but it’s the people around me who remind me why I started.” Image credit: Bulbapedia
And then there was Charizard. Last one, I promise.
Charizard started out as an extremely loyal and respectful Charmander towards its trainers.
However, after evolving and its skill level excelled, so did his pride. Its happy personality and loyalty was replaced by arrogance and overconfidence, and he began disrespecting Ash.
Despite this shift in personality, Ash still went out of his way to care for it. When Charizard was frozen by another Pokémon’s Ice Beam, Ash kept Charizard warm by furiously rubbing it with his hands to generate heat (and nearly rubbed his hands raw for this by the way).
After this, Ash told Charizard that he only wanted to be good enough for it and reminded Charizard of how long they stuck to each other since Charizard was a Charmander. After seeing his efforts to save it from its death, Charizard felt remorseful and once more placed its full loyalty to Ash.
So now, long-term volunteer leaders can ask themselves: “Have I kept my ego in check?”
Because when an individual gains knowledge and skills, and know very well that he or she makes a competent leader, complacency might settle in.
Experiences and skill enhancement is important, but we have to remind ourselves to keep our humility in check, especially when everyone shares the same mission of serving others.
Have you had a ‘Charizard Volunteer Experience’ before?
We’re like the Pokémon we grew up with; we’ve got our journeys when we question our values, relationships, and perspectives.
Which one of these Pokémon do you relate to the most as a volunteer? Or do you relate to every one of them? Maybe your volunteering journey is just about to start!
Image credit: Giphy