I was lamenting to a colleague and friend recently about the tribulations that I’ve been dealing with in my capacity as president of our minor hockey association. They said to me, “I don’t know why you do it to be honest. It’s not worth the hassle.” There are days I find myself muttering the same thing, but in the end, I keep forging ahead. But I do at times wonder why. What makes some people volunteer? What do they get out of it? Why is it always the same people who volunteer? After a particularly rough couple of months, I’ve been thinking a lot about it. Being a volunteer, especially in a small community, can be a thankless job, one that is more challenging in terms of personal interactions, communication and making decisions than any paying job I have had.
My parents were active in my community, involved as a volunteer in many different organizations. That had a massive influence on me in that volunteering was programmed as a default setting on my being. It was natural. It wasn’t a question of whether or not I should volunteer, but rather, in what capacity would I volunteer. There are times I curse the fact that I am programmed that way, but then I remember how I benefited for so many years from the efforts of volunteers. I wouldn’t have had nearly the same kind of childhood and upbringing without the involvement of so many within our community. Is that the reason why I do it? Is it really that simple?
I recently subscribed to www.markmanson.net and have been plowing through his articles. In his article “The Most Important Question of Your Life,” he essentially says the most important question to ask yourself is what do you want enough, that you are prepared to suffer to get? What is it that you want enough that you are prepared to deal with the work, the headache, the crap?
Reading his article has allowed me some clarity on this question. Being a volunteer and dealing with the day to day bullshit doesn’t bring me joy. Coming home from work on a Wednesday evening and getting the house tidied up so that I can host an executive meeting isn’t my idea of fun. I would personally rather be golfing on a Tuesday or Thursday, over coaching a bunch of U15 boys on the soccer field. Yet I do it, and it’s worth it. I don’t always see the worth in the moment, but it is most definitely worth it.
Volunteering is an investment in the community in which you live. It enriches your environment. I see kids learning life skills, and getting the opportunity to be part of something that extends beyond them, to the team. I see kids gain confidence. I see the growth, development, and change that sport or other youth organizations have had a hand in fostering. I see friendships formed through sport. I see kids who won’t be afraid to join a club when they find themselves in a new town years from now, and maybe that’s how they meet new friends, or maybe their future spouse.
It takes a village to raise a child. I was blessed to come from a village that epitomized that philosophy, and it is perhaps why my two brothers and I have enjoyed the successes that we have had in life.
To quote Whitney Houston:
“I believe the children are our future
Teach them well and let them lead the way
Show them all the beauty they possess inside
Give them a sense of pride to make it easier
Let the children’s laughter remind us how we used to be”
That’s why I volunteer. It is that simple I guess. The headaches and the crap are worth it. My kids deserve it, and so do others. Teach them well.