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There's No Getting Out Of It!
by Amy Kenneley

"…..and is anyone here interested in working on this project?" My hand shot up immediately. Who cared what the project was, I was the willing and eager person to tackle whatever someone wanted done.

The flush of being needed, being wanted, being the head or tail of a job was calling to me. You've heard of Buyer's Remorse, when the object purchased-usually a big-ticket item such as car or house-is viewed, in the clearer light of day, as less than well thought out? There must also be Volunteer's Remorse as well.

  • In the afterglow of being a Good Person, the enormity of what my hand had been raised for descended with a heavy thud.
  • What had seemed like such a Good Thing at the time now poked second thoughts, deflating my Good Person persona. How much time would this take, who will help, what will we need, what will it cost?

The Skinny

Volunteerism has many faces, many degrees. Sometimes all you need to do is to show up.

  • You and any number of people are then the "stuff" of statistics, a show of force or empathy for an event, meeting or walk. If the weather is decent, it can be a day of warm fuzzy feelings, new faces or old ones all exchanging ideas and thoughts.
  • If the weather is cold, rainy or snowy, you could arrive to find one other person there, who leaves as soon as you fill the space.
  • And you might wish you hadn't left your hat in the car parked 8 blocks away.

Sometimes you will fulfll a one-event duty.

  • Stand here and pass out this flyer/button/paper party hat. Easy peasy. Smile, offer your flyer/button/paper party hat and wait for someone else to approach.
  • If anyone asks you a question of where to go or anything above where is the restroom, immediately direct them to Someone Who Knows.
  • Hint: if this is a one-time event, YOU will want to know where the restrooms are too, especially if the next person scheduled to pass out the flyer/button/paper party hat doesn't show.

There is also the ongoing engagement.

  • This is the more demanding volunteer "opportunity" because it requires you to go someplace at the same time all the time. Once a week, once a month, every other day…. forever.
  • This is the Big C-Commitment! In this case, you will probably get to know many people, their life stories, joys and sorrows.
  • You may form bonds with people you will work with. You may learn many new things as you are instructed in your volunteer duties.
  • If you give this work half a chance, you will come to feel true dedication to the work you do.
  • If you find you really hate whatever it is you so willingly raised your hand for, 'fess up and admit it is not for you, and find something else that is. There is also the single- person commitment for the long-term.
  • This may involve being alone, working alone, doing something that needs to be done but needing singlemindedness and not necessarily fellow volunteers.
  • If this is you, with a need for concentration and relative solitude, go for it. You may be that necessary cog in the wheel of a larger work-one that will give much satisfaction, even if few kudoes.

Chairman of the Bored

I hate meetings. Some are necessary. Some are unnecessarily long. Some are blessedly short. I like those kinds.

  • If you find yourself, after hand-raising

    or election, the chairman/head/go-to for some organization, please try to keep it as short as possible and to the point of what must be discussed.

  • You might have to shut down the loquacious chit-chatter, the tedious pointer-outer, the irrepressible clown.
  • One of those persons might even be you, but try to maintain the dignity that a committee chair should have.
  • Let everyone have their say-briefly.
  • Try to encourage concensus. And smile….a lot. Treat everyone with the respect they should have. In most cases, you can't fire them. But in most cases you aren't paying them either, so weigh the time and effort each one brings to the work at hand.

Advice to the Care-Worn

Sometimes volunteers over-extend themselves, ignoring family needs for the warm glow of someone else's praise instead.

  • If you see yourself doing that, pull back and focus on what your true priorities are. It mayb be the unheralded dailiness of earning a living, wiping floors or putting lunches together for school. Yeah, no kudoes here.
  • Sometimes we find ourselves swept up in a "cause" that is momentary, and then that earnest flame fades.If it was a short rocket that fizzled, perhaps it was for the best that it did.
  • If so, don't feel burned by the project, but learn from it. You will find a "cause" that better fits you . It may be something that engages you in the public eye, or something that is quietly served.
  • Only you can decide what you think fits best. Sometimes it is good to get out of your comfort zone, though.

Stepping Up

Sometimes I regretted raising my hand. "Oh, what did I get myself into now?" has been a recurring theme. There have been some real disasters along the way. Often I have looked for ways to get myself out of the things I got myself into.

Writing teachers and literary critics speak of an author's "body of work" meaning the total sum of what an author has produced in a span of time. But volunteers can have their own "body of work"… one that may produce recognition or not. Writers write not only to be read by others, but for the writing itself, for the expression of one mind speaking to humanity.

That is what volunteers do. With hands and hearts they can express that innermost desire to be useful, to feel and be that Good Person that lurks in all of us, waiting to be asked "Is there anyone here to help?"

Sometimes it's not what you get yourself out of, but what you get yourself into.

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