Larry Banman: Next event, seek out a volunteer and say thanks
July 9, 2009
I’ve always wondered what motivates people to do volunteer work.
This past Saturday fell on the July 4, the day when we celebrate our country’s independence. It is also a day that many people reserve for family outings or for travel plans. In Colorado, the summers are short and weekends, especially three-day weekends, are precious and valuable.
I often think about the people who work on weekends and on Sundays. While I am recreating or relaxing, I depend on those people for the services and supplies I require for my leisure. I often think of the sacrifices they are making to be at my disposal. I often think of the time they wish they could be spending with their own families. When somebody is earning money during weekends and holidays that, I admit, makes a bit of sense. Generally speaking, that person has made a choice to be in that place at that time. They have weighed their options and made a rational decision, whether it be based in greed or need. However, when somebody sacrifices their time, effort and money for no tangible gain, that is a bit more problematic to my process of rational thought.
While paddling about (metaphorically speaking) rather aimlessly this past Saturday in Kremmling, I thought of the volunteers. As the periodic rain showers swept through the area, my gaze turned toward the top of the cliffs and I thought about the volunteer firefighters setting up for the fireworks show we all hoped would occur that night (it did). I thought about the numerous volunteers who were working the Reneck Mudshuffle at the fairgrounds. There were other events throughout the county, all riding on the backs of volunteers.
I realize that people make choices. I realize that many people get a sense of fulfillment in volunteering. And, I realize that these events provide an opportunity for fundraising for philanthropic purposes. However, I can’t help but believe that those same people who volunteer to help make these events a success might not (at least every once in a while) also enjoy going to a special event, partake in the festivities and go home. These same people might enjoy not having to put in hours of preparation. They might enjoy going home and not expending one brain cell in worry about cleaning up.
When you look at what happens in this county, you soon realize that nearly every event and nearly every recreational activity exists primarily on the backs and shoulders of volunteers. I can’t imagine what life would be like without the army of service clubs, volunteer coaches, volunteer boards of directors and event coordinators that show up at every event, do the yeoman’s share of the labor and sport a smile the entire time.
What probably chaps me the most is when those who aren’t involved criticize the efforts of those who are putting forth a sacrifice. Not every event goes as planned. Not every coach is an expert. People sometimes even make mistakes. Sometimes, the weather throws us a curve. And yet, you can almost count on the criticism that follows any event that fails to meet and/or exceed expectations. I try to catch myself whenever words of criticism try to make their way past my own lips. If I am not willing to help make something better with my own sacrifice, then I can choose not to participate or, quite frankly, keep my mouth shut.
I appreciate what volunteers do for our communities. In my opinion, they are the key element that transforms a collection of people into a community. It has been my observation that any event or activity that endures is built on the tradition of volunteerism. Funding sources and intiatives come and go. However, the spirit behind volunteering is hardier than any stimulus package. Next event, seek out a volunteer and say thanks. Generally speaking, that is more than enough fuel to keep their fire of passion raging.