Volunteering? What would be in it for me?
27 March 2006
Yes, that was me you saw with a leaf rake in my hands Saturday morning a week ago - a very chilly morning, you will recall - cleaning out a batting cage at the Little League field.
I was volunteering, I am proud to say.
I could have curled up on a sofa with The Inquirer and a cup of tea; watched Book TV, or checked the overnight sports scores on ESPN. All in a warm place.
I would be lying, however, if I didn't tell you I was kind of grumpy as I started.
Truth be told, the thought crossed my mind that the kids should be raking their own *&%$#@ field. Isn't it enough that we parents come out to watch them play?
Still, I persevered. Least I could do.
Coach works so hard all week for our kids while we parents sit around eating chips and wondering which kid will cause a lawsuit.
I must admit that the higher the pile of leaves grew, the better I felt. I was downright ecstatic at the end.
Let me confess: Volunteering doesn't come easily to me.
I don't mind volunteering, but why do these "opportunities" always come at inopportune times, such as when Fox 29 is showing Winx Club or the weather's cold?
Moreover, I just don't think I have that much to give to the world, even free. Call it sloth, call it modesty, but I feel I serve best when I stay out of the way of people who are trying to serve.
I do admire these people very much.
I'm not even thinking of the super volunteers - those who take blankets to the homeless on winter nights; build houses for Habitat for Humanity; fly to war-torn lands with cholera vaccines; run for Miss America on a platform of ending world poverty; or become school board members.
The people I'm thinking of are those who spend time on community boards planning the chicken-dinner fund-raiser that would pay for the chicken dinner to come after that, or evenings hearing immigrants read English, or weekends and evenings coaching Little League.
My volunteering preferences run to small things done sporadically: A ball field raked here, a little bit of reading to underprivileged kids there. I guess I am the as-needed guy. Nothing heroic about it. Doesn't feel like true volunteering.
What makes real volunteers tick? How do they give so much of themselves?
Kathy not only regularly "hires" volunteers (along with paid workers) for Goodwill; for decades, until a family illness forced her to cut back, she volunteered "everywhere" - at churches, soup kitchens, senior citizen facilities.
The volunteers around her say the same thing, she adds.
I guess I accidentally experienced that feeling raking leaves last weekend.
All those times I was loath to leave the sofa, thinking I had nothing to give, I should have thought about what I would get out of volunteering. Think selfish, not selfless, and the world will be better.
So, Coach, what do you want me to do next and what's in it for me?