Respect and Volunteering My Time

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It’s fall and the kids are going back to school.  In theory, this makes more time for the things that I like to do, which usually involves volunteering somewhere.  I say “in theory” because every summer I believe that I’m going to have so much more time once the kids are back in school. And within the first few weeks of school starting, I realize that yet again, I have fooled myself with those thoughts.

One of my biggest pulls is volunteering in the kids’ schools.  I am a helper. I can’t seem to resist the urge to “help out.”  I like to contribute, I like to help out, and I like to feel like I am someone that others can depend on.  But I can’t do it all, and as I am getting older I am getting wiser.

My time is in more demand that it ever has been.  With three kids (at very different stages!), going back to work, and being a de facto single parent with no family support, my time is extremely limited.  So I’ve started to really evaluate where, when, how and how much I give my time away.

There are a lot of places that can use my help.  Some are very worthy causes, and well, some are not.  I am getting much more picky about who gets my time and my energy.

On the surface this is going to sound bad, but I really look at what I get out of it.  I say on the surface because the first thing you think of when I say that is money.  But I’m not talking about money at all.  I work for money.  But there are a lot of other groups and organizations that want my time and effort without money being involved.  It would be easy to say that I’m too busy to give away my time.  But some causes are worth my time and effort.

I simply need to put my time into something worthwhile—to people I feel respect and appreciate me.  That list seems to grow shorter.  Maybe it’s because after years of volunteering my time to the Army, I’ve seen firsthand how well volunteers can be appreciated for little cost or effort. These days, I evaluate carefully who I volunteer for because someone doesn’t appreciate my efforts, others will.

Things To Consider When Volunteering….

So here are the factors I consider when I think about volunteering my time and energy:

-Is this a cause or organization that is worthy of my time and energy?  Is it worth the loss of time and energy to my family?

-Are my contributions recognized?

-Do those in charge value the people volunteering?

-Does the group or organization treat their volunteers with respect and appreciation?

-Does giving my time and effort to this group or organization make me feel good?  Or does it make someone I care about feel good?

I Matter.  Even When Volunteering.

I find that even when I believe the cause is a good one, if I don’t feel respected or valued, I slowly start to give less and less, until I eventually leave.  So now I take more time to look around.  How do they treat the people currently volunteering?  How do they treat the people who are ending their time with them?  Many organizations could not survive, let alone flourish, without volunteers. But if they aren’t treating their volunteers with respect, dignity and appreciation, then it’s not something that I want to give my time to, and I shouldn’t even start.

I’m always going to volunteer my time.  I’ve spent too much of my adult life seeing how valuable volunteers are in getting important work done.  But I am becoming very picky. Someone is benefiting from my efforts, I don’t think it’s too much to ask to be treated like I’m valuable.

It’s why I stopped giving my time to a group half a mile from my house, but I’m willing to drive 40 minutes to Fort Carson to teach classes.  My time and energy are valuable to me and to my family.  I should be treated with respect, I deserve that. 

Respect and appreciation matter.

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Once Upon A Time, in another life, Kristin graduated from the University of Michigan with a plan to teach high school math. But then, life happened when she wasn’t looking…. She married an Army guy and 23 years, 3 kids, a few dogs, 7 homes, and 2 continents later she’s now a single mom living here in Colorado Springs. Along the way she volunteered for the Army, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, and several schools; managed volunteer organizations, coached judo, trained to be a whitewater rafting guide, biked down Pike’s Peak and even managed to teach some high schoolers a little math before forging new trails writing, teaching and financial planning. She never knows what’s coming around the bend, but she’s learned to handle whatever life (and the Army!), throws at her with a smile and a laugh. She’s pretty sure you can get through anything with those, even if you have to fake it occasionally!!