Funny how it's always the same people doing things - those are the people others turn to because they know they can count on them.
And so the burnout continues.
Somewhere I read that the average life of a volunteer is three to five years.
I get it now. That's how long it takes before they quit, or greatly curtail, their volunteerism.
I'm closing in on year-two of my serious volunteer life, and now I understand what they meant. No, I wouldn't change anything, but I wonder how long I want to put up with it. If you're like me, you know just what I'm talking about.
I'm the coordinator for our neighborhood swim team. I love it, I really do. This is my way of not only giving back to a sport that gave me so much as a child, but to make sure my kids can have a wonderful experience.
It's a tremendous amount of work. But I have a great group of volunteers who help. But I'm not a delegator and I hate calling people and asking them to do things. So, I end up doing most of the work myself. Still, that's OK and I accept that I bring the late nights on myself. When I see all those kids running around having a blast at a swim meet it makes it all worthwhile.
Ed stepped up to take over chairmanship of the neighborhood pool. Ed doesn't even like to hang out at the pool. But he knows that I do and the boys practically live there in the summer. He was happy to do it and felt like he could make a difference. He has and I'm very proud of him and the work he's done.
We work together as a team. He's my right arm with the swim team and I'm his with the pool. We get Ben and Zack to help out. For that they get the privilege of swimming in early April - long before any of their friends.
For the most part, people are great. They say thank you and seem genuinely appreciative of what we do. That's nice - it helps you through the long hours.
But then there are those other people.
Now every sport or organization has them. It may be one, but it seems to suck the life out of you. How about the mother who attacked the umpire at a recent Richmond County baseball game? All the "thank yous" in the world don't make up for an incident like that.
In our neighborhood this summer we actually had an incident involving a gun - all over pool membership. Thank goodness that's not a common occurrence, but the victims were volunteers simply trying to help people have a great summer at the pool.
These are extreme examples - but they happen.
I've gotten calls from irate people who don't like the way volunteers do their jobs. In most cases these are just busy-bodies who never lift a finger to help.
Then there are the people who constantly complain about me (or any leader) behind my back. Funny how it always gets back.
Quite frankly it's easy to ignore, and eventually forgive, but it sure is annoying.
For Ed, the biggest problems he has are people who are rude and abusive to lifeguards. We have a great group of lifeguards. Most are teenagers who need to be reminded of things occasionally, but they're a great group of people who I believe are concerned about the safety of the people using the pool. But there's a very small group that looks for problems and spends a great deal of time gossiping and stirring things up that aren't there.
And then there's the never-ending battle of some people not meeting their commitments. They say they'll be there, but they either don't show or come late. If it's one or two it's a small problem; when it's 10 you're courting disaster - not to mention a migraine.
It comes with the territory and most of the problems we just shrug off. But it gets old.
Most people don't want to take on the leadership roles. It's hard work and often involves tasks they aren't comfortable doing. That's fine because they're usually willing and able to help with the multitude of tasks involved with a sporting event, church, social agency or anything else where people are giving freely of themselves.
I may complain but I keep doing it. Ed and I like the message it sends our children. We are part of a community and we want to improve the community.
So to all you volunteers out there, keep up the good work. Your children are watching.
Jennifer Miller and her husband Ed have two sons, Ben, 10, and Zack, 7. They live in Martinez
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