The Goddess Speaks
Volunteer job is tough but rewarding
LAST summer, I saw a lady wearing a shirt that said, "Volunteering, it doesn't pay." Boy, could I relate to that. I certainly have done my share of doing my share. I think that "Ask me and I'll say yes" must have been posted on my forehead for a while.
I couldn't help myself. I'd be at a meeting or hear an announcement about something that needed to be done, and I'd get excited. "What a great idea. I can do that," I'd think. Next thing you know, I'd be on a committee or in charge of a project.
But it's never as simple as it first seems. Not only does it not pay, often it is frustrating and overwhelming.
The hardest part is the personalities. That sounds antisocial but it's the truth. I'm generally a team player and usually get along well with others, but when it comes to pitching in, rules seem to fly out the window.
First of all, no one is clearly in charge. Sometimes everybody wants to be in control. Or, nobody wants to listen. And nobody has to do anything they don't want to.
We must rely on people's good nature to embrace the job until it is complete; if they walk out in the middle, there are no repercussions. I just have to let it go.
All ideas need to be considered, and people's feelings shouldn't be hurt. No matter how far-fetched a suggestion is, the committee must take it into consideration and try to incorporate it. The polite way to reject an idea, I've recently learned, is to suggest that it be "tabled," with the assumption it will be revisited at a future date. Even if the date turns out to be too late.
The bottom line is that we are all donating our precious time. That must be respected.
But combine a group of people who aren't used to working together and are in charge of their own personal or professional lives -- and egos can get in the way. Without a chain of command, social politics can override the ultimate goal of lending a helping hand. People get fussy when they don't get their way. They take sides. Factions develop.
It is often an exercise in patience as I learn to respect that each person's style and expectations are not the same as mine.
And then there are the people who are getting paid. The ones who need the help. It surprises me how demanding they can be. They always appreciate the effort in the end -- certificates and leis are presented. But it can be a rocky road to get there.
The powers that be can forget that the troops are giving freely of their time and energy, and often ask for just a little bit more.
Sometimes I wonder why I keep raising my hand. And then I remember. If it weren't for the vast legions of volunteers that I know, the programs and projects that I have come to love and enjoy wouldn't exist. And if I am willing to enjoy them, then it is my duty to chip in.
I guess that's the payoff in the end: the satisfaction of knowing that I did my share.
Lorraine Gershun is publications adviser for Searider Productions at Waianae High School.
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