Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Volunteer Junkie

No where in the yellow pages is there a listing for Volunteers Anonymous. I am in dire need of a 12-step program to learn how to say "no" when people ask me to do things for free. Really, I only need 11 more steps. For the past few years, I've been able to muster up the courage to decline such opportunties only in the month of "No"vember. I just need to know what to do the rest of the year.

Library landscape project that I volunteered to manage pro bono

I suspect I've inherited this weakness from my mother.

While filling out high school forms one September in the early 1980s, when I was in one of my characteristic sarcastic teen-age moods, I paused when I got the the small box that requested my mother's occupation. "Homemaker" was inaccurate - the house was already built, and she did not build it. It was about 25 years too early for something like "domestic engineer." We had help inside and outside the house four days a week so "cleaning lady," "laundry lady," or "chief cook and bottle washer" didn't really apply. "Housewife" just didn't seem to fit my mother either, primarily because she wasn't in the house very much.

Between the Junior League, Symphony Society, college Board of Regents, Housing Authority, church, the art museum, our schools (she wasn't yet old enough for garden club), she was busy all day and often scurrying from meeting to meeting, all the while making sure dinner was balanced, home-cooked and on the table each night, shuttling us to gymnastics, football, orthodontists, baseball or soccer. And for none of this did she make a dime (this is not the time and place to discuss the relative value of the stay-at-home mom, either).

Why on earth, I wondered, would my mother do all of this stuff and not make any money? The only answer I could surmise was an addiction of the worst kind - she was a junkie, a volunteer junkie. And that's what I put on my high school form.

Flash forward and I'm sitting here writing, after spending two hours at a library volunteer meeting. Last week, not only did I attend a garden club meeting, I managed to offer to be the 5th grade class treasurer and the gymnastics team treasurer and in my spare time, get a few auction donations for the school golf tournament, and serve on a committee for a church fundraiser (and donate a flower arrangement for auction, too). That was just last week. It's Tuesday and I'm on another roll this week.

Oh I can justify it all - as I am sure my mother has - making the world a better place, giving back to my community, setting an example for my kids to follow, "marketing" my landscape design business via pro bono project management or landscape consultations.

I've got to find that 12-step program fast - November is still six weeks away.

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