My story starts on a Friday morning, when I amongst another group of enthusiastic people were all set to go volunteering with an organization I have the highest level of respect for. Just as we arrived to the meeting spot we were met with a stream of complaint from one of the organizers. This organizer told us that she was not happy with the spirit we showed the previous week, and that she will limit her invitations for future events to people who show commitment. I stopped and wondered for a minute if I, in her eyes and according to her checklist, was one of those “committed” people. At first, I thought I was, seeing that this is the second week in a row I attend. However, I didn’t have to think too long because obviously and to my shock she confirmed that I was not. Assuring my sentiments further, she took out a notebook and went around asking for numbers of people she will invite to future volunteering efforts while skipping me. I thought at first that this was an oversight so I went to her and asked her how I could find out about any future volunteering activities. She said “you will from people, we are reducing the use of Facebook because we want quality not quantity”. To confirm to me further that she was brushing me off completely, she went on to say” you didn’t attend the training”. I told her that I had a prior commitment and that I will attend any future training the organization is planning to hold. She said, with complete disinterest, “ya you will know about it from others, maybe one of your friends” making me feel completely inadequate, invisible, and insignificant.
This woman repeated again on the bus that she was not happy with the spirit of volunteering she is seeing. She said this to a bunch of people who were actually awake on Friday and there. She went on to say that she wants people to volunteer from the heart. After her wonderful speech and after ruling off people, like me, who had actually showed up more than once. I have to ask where her spirit is.
In my opinion there is no right or wrong way to volunteer as volunteer work starts with the commitment of showing up. Maybe there are techniques we need to learn, but snapping at us won’t make us learn them any faster. Telling a committed person indirectly that he/she doesn’t qualify isn’t going to sustain interest. Believe me, I contemplated leaving there and then. I even contemplated unleashing the “The verbal diarrhea beast” within me that I try to keep tamed. I really wanted to give her a piece of my mind, but instead I decided to be mature and move on. I guess it was her lucky day!
After consciously deciding to ignore her , I came to realize that she is simply acting the way most of us do. She was simply too focused on “the how” of things rather than the “why or what”. Somewhere along the way, she was simply desperately looking for the magic spirit of good , forgetting that people are there and people want to do good for the community, and at the end this is what the whole idea boils down to. That is the “Big Picture”.
She forgot that there is no right or wrong good doing, and there is no skill people cant learn with time. She was too busy !
This is one incident that demonstrates a lot. Let’s face it, we all tend to forget the “Big Picture”. How many times do we plan a wedding, while focusing all our energy on the dress, the flowers, the buffet, and the cake? How many times do we forget the love story that is behind this wedding or the bride and grooms’ feelings? How many times do we focus on the clothes, the food, and who it is we are going to visit, forgetting somewhere along the way the Eid celebration itself? How many times do we plan a birthday party for an infant, forgetting that it is supposed to be fun for him or her? In such parties we usually bring tons of food, we invite all the adults we know, we dress the birthday boy or girl in fancy clothes, and we plan every detail except for the most important one, making THE EVENT FUN FOR THE CELEBRATED CHILD.
Let’s face it, it is in us to build a huge villa even if it is for a family of four. It is in our blood to push our kids to get high grades without wondering what they really want in life. We are simply an image based society too focused on how people see us, what they will say, and how they would like us to act, forgetting the main purpose of what it is we are doing.
This realization extinguished my anger to some extent, and about the volunteering events I will continue to go, because I respect the organization and what it does. One person’s opinions are simply too insignificant to make me lose site of the “Big Picture”, and don’t worry my chronic case of “Verbal Diarrhea is REALLY under control”.