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The world is hugged by the faithful arms of volunteers. ~Everett Mámor
Labor Day. What a concept. Lucky for me, few of my jobs have felt much like work.(Creative Department motto: We play for a living.) One Labor Day, ever unable to resist the adorably clever, I did give birth to a child. Happy Birthday, Dear Boy.
This is the first in a series of Monday morning blogs on the theme of appreciation. I think we’ll call it Hat’s Off to… Today being Labor Day, I’d like to kick it off with a hats off to volunteers in general.
As a child, whenever I groused about having to collect for the March of Dimes or wondered why crates of Girl Scout Cookies lived in our hall, my mother the Sunday School Teacher would counter with a passage from the gospel of St. Luke, “For unto whomsoever much is given, of him much is required.” A sense of noblesse oblige took root. I was nearly grown before I realized that we were not the Carnegies, in fact, not all that much, at least in the form of liquid assets, had been given us. By the time I had my own children, I had had a reverse epiphany, realizing that, I have in fact been given a great deal; for one thing, a husband whose work ethic allowed me to stay home. Enter the early warning signs of V.D., (Volunteer’s Disorder), a spastic condition in which one’s arm shoots into the air following no apparent signal from the brain.
Since the early onset of VD, I’ve, knocked on doors, driven around town with a giant papier mache octopus on the roof of my car, taken night school Spanish, baked thousands of cookies, and addressed angry mobs of deadly soccer parents, and once, made an evening dress for a 15 foot Barbie Doll. In December, when most people are putting the finishing touches on the tree or deciding which Christmas sweater to wear, I work Nutcracker, quick changing sweaty, high strung ballerinas, wrangling rats and angels, even driving the dreaded Swan Boat. (note: The Swan Boat handles worse than a sedan with an octopus on the roof.)
Not that I’m patting myself on the back here. Truth be told, my giving has on more than one occasion been of the white elephant variety. For instance, once I accidentally embezzled a sports booster fund. For some reason, my cakes were never the first to go at the bake sale. As anyone in the snow scene will tell you, with Mrs. Yon at the helm, the swan boat crippled more dancers that shin splints. It doesn’t matter how much chaos I caused, I received much. Forget the people you might help by volunteering, that’s a cliche. Here are the real reasons to answer the call.
1) The people you meet.
Working bingo is like having served in the trenches, regardless of their backgrounds or political differences, comrads in arms form unique bonds. Were it not for volunteer projects, I’d never have found myself sharing a beer with a genuine rocket scientist and The Empress of the Short Row Heel, a back slid Mormon with an acid tongue. Entertaining Tip: If your address book contains both Drag Queens and Drag Racers, your dinner parties will become the stuff of legends.
2) The skills you acquire.
Do you know how to install herringbone bracing? I do. I learned on the job when I was 12. Teach yourself to drive a stick shift in a church van full of pre-teens jacked on Koolaid, no question about it, you’ll be able to handle anything life throws at you. Furthermore, volunteers quickly learn “to make do”. I’ll bet McGyver got his start chairing a poorly funded fund raising committee.
3) The other stuff you won’t have to do.
I admit it, I hate to Christmas shop and wouldn’t be caught dead in a Christmas sweater. There isn’t enough egg nog in the world to make me look forward to hosting an open house. For 12 years, the Nutcracker has given me something precious, that is, a water tight excuse to be a seasonal slacker, a Grinch among Tiny Tims. Volunteering allows me guilt free access to things I’d rather be doing. I’d rather get out the vote than clean out the refrigerator; stuffing envelopes is, to me, far more stimulating than stuffing a turkey.
Here’s the main reason to volunteer: In busy, demanding lives, giving of oneself is so extravagant. When your inbox is overflowing and your kitchen floor is sticky there’s nothing more luxurious than derailing on a volunteer project. Go “plant trees under whose shade you do not expect to sit”. Whatever the motivation, Hats off to the volunteers, cogs in calling trees, food chains, dunking booths, and car pools–those who recognize that they have been given much.
Speaking of volunteers, I could use some help with this blog. I’d like your input on people, companies, products, ideas to recognize in the Hat’s Off blog. If any of you worthy readers run across something worth mentioning, from a great shade of nail polish to a person or organization which should be commended, let me know. You may reach us by way of the comment box below or by emailing me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. I thank you in advance, you may now put down your hands.
by Jan Masters Yon