Having run a marathon not too long ago, I know how much energy and endurance it takes to train and I know how exhausting it can be to sustain that effort. The last couple of months at my work have felt so much harder than that and sometimes I feel like I can’t take another step, figurative or literal.
Do other GRAVA members sometimes feel that way?
Last week I was in Suffolk co-presenting a grueling two-day class (although I admit that my co-presenter Katie Campbell really bore the lion’s share of the work!). The week before, I managed a string of four back-to-back projects scheduled for Affordable Housing Awareness Week with almost a hundred volunteers combined. Interspersed with all that were the usual meals and birthday parties and youth projects and classes. And I haven’t even mentioned all of the complicated work that is being generated by the Service Enterprise Initiative. My inbox is always jammed with unread messages, my to-do list keeps getting longer and longer, and I can’t ever seem to catch up.
Welcome to the profession of volunteer management.
I would be lying if I said I enjoyed every minute. Most of the time my brain is fried and my feet are killing me. Some days I drag myself home after dark and wonder why I don’t do something less strenuous. Does everybody work this hard? Whatever happened to “Work Smarter, Not Harder” anyway? And yet……
A week does not go by that I do not feel genuinely inspired by this work. I am inspired by the people I encounter – clients, coworkers, volunteers. I am inspired by the acts of service I witness. I am inspired by the students who take classes so that they can do a better job, be more effective. I am inspired by parents who volunteer alongside their kids and model the importance of civic engagement. I am inspired by volunteer managers who are working toward their CVAs. I am inspired by all of the organizations out there that strive to make a real difference. I am inspired by my co-workers at VSH who are excited about making volunteer engagement more strategically integrated. I am inspired to see how the simplest volunteer activities can create meaningful connections between human beings, if only for a few minutes. Every single week I have that moment when I’m shaking my head and thinking, wow….this is so cool.
Meanwhile, my mom (who is in her eighties) lives by herself. She doesn’t leave the house much because of mobility issues and she has very few visitors. The news is almost always on and so she consumes a steady diet of murders, abductions, wars, catastrophes, scandals, and the worst behaviors that humanity is capable of. When I visit, she invariably recites her up-to-the-minute litany of things to be afraid of and paranoid about and horrified by. She just can’t see much good in the world and has lost her faith in the decency of people.
How lucky are we to have the constant reminders that our profession provides that people are capable of goodness, that people can be inspiring, that people want to help and are basically decent and kind? These SMH moments remind me that I wouldn’t trade my job for the world. On the contrary, they only motivate me to do more, to be better, to get smarter, and to work harder, because even after weeks of throbbing feet, fried brain cells, and overflowing e-mails, it is so worth it!
For me, GRAVA is the place where I can share my love for this work and be inspired by the love that others have for it. I hope YOU won’t miss the opportunity next month and every month to inspire and be inspired! It is so worth it!
At your service,
Alison Jones-Nassar, President