Friday, February 20, 2009

Why volunteer?

This week, I have been asking myself why volunteer? In between work and my family, I spent hours researching so that I could present a ten minute discussion to an organization then spent another couple of hours creating a consensuses statement from said presentation with no guidance from leadership. Then spent days receiving emails or phone calls on what I did wrong and then on how wrong I was for pointing out any fallacy of their arguments. Most of these discussions would not have been necessary if my requests for assistance had been answered. In fact, one committee leader said that was not the way he thought I would do it. I explained that as wonderful as I am, I cannot read minds (shhh, don't tell my daughters). I am sure that if this had been the only bump in my volunteer commitments this week, I would have shrugged it off but it was not. Every one of my volunteer commitments was challenged, pushed, twisted, or slapped with some kind of criticism, threat, or displeasure.

I have been volunteering since I was a child. My parents believed it was our civic responsibility. I see a need and I take action. I have been the grunt, the sergeant, and the general. However, most of my time donated now is spent in leadership roles and I really miss those days in which I showed up and just served coffee or stuffed envelopes or walked a dog or delivered lunch or etc. It is my job to thank and inspire volunteers for showing up. However, I don't receive a simple thank yous for a task or job well done. Trust me, it is brought to my attention when I stumble or don't read minds but a thank you has not come my way in months now.

I probably wouldn't have noticed the lack of thank yous if not for a coffee date with a friend. So I want to say thank you to my friend "J" for pointing out the fact that I am now doing thankless work, THANKS. Over a cup of coffee, I shared my discontent and the possibility of hanging up my clipboard. J listened with kindness and said, "What it sounds like to me is you feel and little abused and not appreciated." I am afraid she is right. J suggested I tell everyone to get stuffed and move on. She is such a good friend.

The coffee chat led to some soul searching. Why do I volunteer? Is it for the thank yous? Is it because I was brainwashed as kid? Why does anyone volunteer?

My answers are simple and complicated. I volunteer to make a difference, to effect change in my little part of the world. Somewhere in the mix is my responsibility to my girls to teach by example. So I will take a deep breath, pull up my sleeves, and get the job done. No quiting today.

Just in case, no one has said this to you today, thank you.

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