The community I live in apparently picks a volunteer of the year.
I am certainly not of the opinion that I am the volunteer of the year, esp in my community. I only dedicate about 6 hrs a year directly within the suburb where I live, the greater amount of hrs is in the greater Portland area or nationwide, or now lately, worldwide (yay for helping Africa!).
For some reason, I am irked by the volunteer of the year this year. I'm sure she's a REALLY nice lady. She received the award for the amount of time she has volunteered at her child's school. She's a mom who doesn't work and spends time helping out in her child's classroom. Which I believe is a GREAT thing to do. When my beloved offspring was young and I was in college (self-supported, working two jobs mind you), I volunteered in his Montessori and then in his Kindergarten and 1st grade classes. It was great.
HOWEVER.....I was volunteering in my sons class/school. I LOVED volunteering there and felt great about it, however, it did somewhat serve my needs as well. I was a very active figure in his classroom. I was able to know all the kids, know his teachers, as well as others in the school, I got to spend time with him while he was in school. It was good to be a part of his world at school. It wasn't just volunteering to volunteer and do some good in the world. I wanted to do some good in my son's world. Volunteering-yes. For a good cause-absolutely! Completely altruistic-not really....it was because of MY son that I was there. I wouldn't have helped out at that school if I didn't have a child in it somewhere. And I have to wonder if this woman will continue to volunteer at the elementary school when her son moves on to middle school. I would venture to guess that she will then be spending many volunteer hours in the middle school.
And so when I heard that the Volunteer of the Year was a mother who volunteers in her child's school, I was a bit disheartened. Not because I felt that she was not worthy of an award or because I am a volunteer snob.....but because I KNOW there are some REALLY great things going on in my community that are powered by the many, many hours put in by volunteers who have no family ties to the organization they are helping.
There's a woman who donated food to the local food bank during a holiday season and she heard about how people who come there are sometimes in great need of other very basic commodities that we take for granted, such as soap and shampoo and womanly things that are necessities and can be costly. So this wonderful woman convinced her family members to each donate a few dollars (her husband, kids and a few relatives) each week and now they purchase such things (on sale to get the best deals) and make care baskets for people who visit the food bank. It's hard to find a job when you're destitute, hungry, (most likely) depressed AND your hair hasn't been washed lately. It's the little things in life that can really help out. Providing just a small bottle of shampoo to 30 families a week (or however many she provides) is a huge contribution to our community.
My library - which I obviously have strong feelings about - has countless volunteers. There is a 90-year old woman who has volunteered there weekly for the last X-amount of years. She's 90 - and she still manages to volunteer her time to help keep our library running so that people can read?? I love her. I'm sure there are a ton of volunteer firefighters or people who help out at the local gov't agencies.
I'm really REALLY glad that we have some great parents who are fortunate enough to have the time to volunteer in our local schools. I have to actually take vacation leave from work to get the chance to do something with my sons school. I don't have a flexible schedule and I'm not a stay-at-home mom. I'm slightly, but just slightly, envious of the stay-at-home moms who have the luxury of their freedom. (and NO, I am not saying that stay-at-home moms do not work--just that they have a bit more freedom than those of us who have to clock in somewhere in order to provide food and housing for our family).
I'm not devaluing the idea of volunteering in your child's elementary school. I just don't think that the people who volunteer only for their child's' school are solely doing it for the good of the school and without some fulfillment of their own desire to be as active as possible in their child's life. And maybe I'm just a volunteer snob. A friend of mine took care of his elderly mother for a year before she passed away. He took her places every other weekend and spent a lot of time visiting he in the nursing home. He considered that volunteering. He was driving her and her elderly friends to the beach, to the zoo, to the drive-through safari park...and not getting paid. It was a form of work that he was not getting paid for and, as such, he felt he was volunteering. I think that this is somewhat up there with helping in your child's classroom. It's a familial obligation. And I might be a snob.
Everybody can be great...Because anybody can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace - A soul generated by love.