As volunteer engagement professionals, we tend to spend every waking moment taking care of others. We take care of our volunteers and invest a lot of our efforts to ensure that they feel appreciated and validated and meaningfully engaged. We take care of our clients and do all that we can to make sure our volunteer activities support and benefit them. We spend long hours in conversation with fellow staff and do our best to take their needs into consideration when we develop our opportunities. And of course, we take care of our organizations by making sure that all our strategies reflect and support the good work being accomplished in the community.
The job would be tough enough even if all of the influencing factors were under our control – but the fact is that much of what we do depends on factors outside of our control. Working with humans is always a moving target, and we work with lots of humans – messy, sensitive, unpredictable, emotional, and sometimes very damaged humans with all kinds of conflicting motivations and expectations. And yet we are still expected to pull it all off, to make it all work, to meet every need, to avoid every risk, and to do it in a way that looks absolutely effortless. And when we do actually manage to be so good at what we do that we make it look like a breeze, we are met with the vaguely condescending assumption that “apparently anybody can do this” and our skills are underestimated if not entirely dismissed all together. It’s a catch-22 I haven’t quite made my peace with.
But I’m not complaining. I know a lot of people who barely like what they do, much less love it. I feel so lucky and so blessed and so inspired most of the time that I wouldn’t trade my job for the world. To witness service in action is to witness the best of what humans have to offer each other. The work is its own reward.
Nevertheless, it’s nice to have one day out of the year that we can call our own, a day to acknowledge and celebrate our work, a day to stop and breathe and focus on ourselves for a change. We at GRAVA hope that last Thursday’s International Volunteer Managers Day breakfast and workshop was all of those things and more. The truth is that, if we don’t take occasional opportunities to celebrate what we do and to care for ourselves, we won’t be as effective or as successful as we could be in caring for others. Caring for ourselves allows us to be the best volunteer managers we can be. And when you get right right down to it, one day a year isn’t nearly enough.
So here’s your top professional development resolution for the new year: take the opportunity every month (on the first Thursday of each month to be precise) to celebrate your awesomeness alongside your awesome colleagues. Because we are just that good! See you in 2015!
At Your Service,