Volunteers. Selfless, noble, doers of good. God bless them. That being said, I must confess that my knee-jerk reaction is to say “no” when asked to take on a volunteer job. I’m busy and don’t particularly want to put more on my plate. As I’ve gotten older, however, I’ve learned how the volunteer thing works – it’s about people and relationships that get things done. So I have had to re-train myself to think and act differently when considering volunteering. Philanthropy is defined as the practice of giving money and time to help make life better for other people. I can wrap my mind around that. I think we all can.
We cannot, however, all be uber-volunteers who say yes to just about everything. Those people are reliable, responsible, and ultra-competent. Frankly their efficiency is a little scary. Thank God these people exist. We can’t all be uber-volunteers. I certainly am not. Those people are a different breed, another level of other-directedness. I am more of the occasional volunteer and I’m comfortable with that.
While it’s worthwhile to get children involved in doing good deeds, I think there is even greater value in parents modeling volunteer behavior for them. Children watch and learn from how their parents conduct themselves. I heard someone speak once about the power of memory and how we remember our parents’ volunteer activities from when we were children. Were your parents always complaining about having to participate or were they proud of it? Your memories of your parents may guide how you view volunteering. My husband and I are very careful to put a positive spin on our volunteer activities so our children see it as a worthwhile and valuable contribution, one they will remember when they grow up and their time comes.
You can pick and choose what you volunteer to do – just do something. Unless you live under a rock, you are part of a community. My goal is to give back a little more than I take. Do I always achieve this? No. Sometimes I fall short. Socializing comes easily to me so I host and attend functions where I can serve as an ambassador for whatever organization I feel strongly about…drinking wine and chatting are in my skill set. Sometimes it’s important to go to dinners and events to support friends and acquaintances and the charities that are important to them, even if you “don’t wanna.”
Asking for money is a dreaded task for 99% of people, up there with public speaking. I hate it too. It feels intrusive and overly personal. But someone’s got to do it. I am not talking about paid, aggressive solicitors from random organizations. I mean people from within your community, from the organizations you’re associated with. They don’t ask for money to put into their own pocket for say, a home kitchen renovation. It’s for worthy causes. I try to remember that and cut the person some slack when they call me.
When I was recently asked to help with a fundraising effort, I was busy and distracted and desperately wanted to say “no.”
Instead, what I said was, “I’m not going to say yes, but I’m not going to say no. Let me think about it.”
I ended up saying yes. Next time you get the call to volunteer, consider answering it.