“You are the volunteer of last resort” my husband chided me this weekend. I’m just not sure how to take that!? The truth is, I am reliable and I commit cautiously, but fully. Those qualities make me a perfect glutton for punishment. And in the world of parent-volunteerism, there’s plenty of punishment to be had.
What makes matters worse, however, is that I have two other qualities that delude me in my volunteerism: “do-gooder” and “pig-headed”. Those are the more common names for my qualities. I tend to refer to them as my lofty-dreamy-isms and my love of the sport of running-down-the-slim-odd.
So altogether, you have a girl who believes she can make the world better, is not deterred by the odds, and who will do the dirty work, even if no one else will. Seriously, I am a cause’s wet-dream!
This weekend, I participated in the planting of a wildflower meadow at my youngest’s elementary school. It is a “schoolyard habitat improvement” project. It is a project that has been in the works for a few months now. It was stressful for me, as, well, I wrote the grant proposal to get the money for this project, which we won, sheesh, and then had to build a little support for so I didn’t find myself tilling 9,000 square feet and sprinking seeds by myself.
It got a little crazy. It all worked out just fine. But last week, somewhere between the volunteer report that the one-ton of stone we needed was not going to be FREE, after all, and the news that some 60 people were expected to show up to plant I started to ask myself why I get myself in these positions.
I mean, really, WHAT EXACTLY motivated me to even think about seeking the grant money? Nobody had suggested, hey, you know, our school really needs a wildlife habitat. Nope. That was my hair-brained idea. Did I think about how hard it might be to pull it off if we won? Maybe just a little bit, but THAT (given my slim-odd-thing) was not a deterrant. THAT, I believe is what (sensibly) keeps most people from bothering. No, the notion that something might be difficult is something I think of as mere “sport”. As in, it wouldn’t be much fun if it was easy.
So, the logistics, the thinking through the problems, they were stressful, obsessive and challenging. I hated it and I loved it. I would sincerely have loved it I hadn’t had the challenge of figuring out what to do about stone that will cost $300 with a $400 total project budget. But I also got a kick out of showing up at the fence supplies business in my flippy skirt, my freshly showered, sunkissed face and big smile and asking for a last-minute donation of two measly fence posts. It was a high. An accomplishment. A rush. A $30 rush.
I’m pretty sure I drove Russ crazy with so many questions about square feet and linear feet and cubic feet as I tried to figure out if it was possible to get compost — the day before; gravel in lieu of stone — the day before; hoses and water supplies, etc. The panic of it all made me jittery. I have to admit though. I kind of liked it.
I felt useful.
I felt stimulated. In an all-neurons-firing kind of way.
I felt energetic.
I reminded Russ, that we share this pig-headed do-gooder don’t-let-the-obstacles-slow-you-down approach to life. It is both vice and virtue. It likely drew us to each other, even though the trait in each other can be annoying. Isn’t that love? Oh wait, that’s a different blog post….I digress….
So now what?
I tend to think that this recent project embodied the energy and attitude I had when I worked in an office. There I was rewarded handsomely for such persistance, such fight-til-the-end, such problem-solving. Sometimes I think I should put it back to work where I could get paid for these qualities. But is that it?
This wilflower project is just the latest. I have a slew of other stories like this that go back to, say, after I quit my career-job and moved to Vermont to play stay-at-home-mom. The thing is, the way I see the world, the next time I see an opportunity to make positive change in my environment, I am likely to volunteer. To commit. To not let slim-odds deter my enthusiasm.
In talking with a cousin last week, I quipped, “I need to find something else to throw myself into”. He suggested, “How about enjoying your summer with your kids”.
**Ding!** Not a bad idea. Not at all.
I just need to find a slim-odd and a deadline rush to make it feel a little more like sport and a little less like drudgery!
An addendum: What I failed to convey, above, is that this pig-headed do-gooderism doesn’t feel like a healthy way to live. It is exhausting. Like an addiction. At work, I didn’t notice so much, because I was rewarded for it. Now, I live each high and low so intensely. Anyway…