Saturday, October 11, 2008

Too Much Volunteerism, Not Enough Time

The week flew by in too much volunteer activity, which I truly need to curb. All communities need volunteers and all of my life I have "stepped up to the plate", usually to take on the quiet, behind the scenes and never ending boring jobs no one else wanted to do.

It started in high school when I was involved in CCD (confraternity of Christian doctrine, or teaching catechism) at my local parish. Then for a number of years, I was too busy being a student to do much until the election campaign of 1968 when I poured my time, energy and heart and soul into Eugene McCarthy's unsuccesful bid for the Presidency and into the local Democratic club.

My next stint of volunteerism was for my church again and lasted several years. It led to the discernment that I had a call to serve and the decision to go to Graduate school in a field that I now regret, religion.

When I returned home after graduate school I volunteered again to serve on church committees and then in the last ten years in my local neighborhood.

The biggest lesson that I have learned from all of this is that volunteering in an unseen way is asking to have one's time and energy used up and thrown away. If you are going to volunteer at least do it in a way that allows you to be seen; allows you to make real contacts with people so that friendships might be formed and support given.

I have seen that the more people are given the less they give back. An entitlement mentality sets in. "It's free, so why can't I use it any way that I want" becomes the norm, rather than, "Thank you. This is such a great thing that you are doing." I have seen genuine rudeness set in where there should be gratitude.

Maybe we need a thank a volunteer week. I know that for me I am going to try to strike a better balance in my own life. I am grateful for the experiences and for the lessons that I have learned and also for the fact that rather late on I am finally assessing them. For me it is going to be less is more--less volunteering and more time spent on activities that give back to me.

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