I wonder how many of you that read my blog serve in volunteer capacities? I very much enjoy volunteering and I have for a long time. There is just something very fulfilling about giving of time and talents, especially when it’s for something you really believe in and support. I find that the satisfaction in volunteering can be tremendous. Knowing you’re giving without receiving (a paycheck, at least) really means you ARE receiving something very valuable in return. Volunteering is awesome and I’m very much enjoying that I have the volunteer opportunities that I do. For instance, I just started working with children on Wednesday nights at our church. It’s only an hour and a half each week and I only just got started recently, but I really enjoy. It’s also nice that I get that time with Mariana since she’s in the group. I also enjoy volunteering in other ways at other places too — it’s something near and dear to my heart.
There was a time, however, when I got myself way too over-committed. It was entirely my own fault, I’ll take every ownership on that, but I was stretched too thin and I burned out on it. Given that I’m a people pleaser by nature, I would find it difficult to turn away opportunities to help when they were presented to me. After all, I’ve been a stay at home mom and there wasn’t full time job (then or anymore) demanding forty hours a week of my time. I felt that I really SHOULD be volunteering, so I did. For a long time, I really loved it. I was active with the elementary school PTA and found other ways to stay occupied within the school. That was incredibly fun and rewarding. Being able to be involved where my girls were learning was just the best! And, I wouldn’t take back one single moment of it. However, other things started to pile up on me and I found that I wasn’t balancing as well as I would have liked. Have you ever heard that saying “If you want something done, give it to a busy person?” That was me. I was so busy and working to keep all the plates spinning in the air that if you wanted something done, hand it off to me because I would get it done and keep on moving right along so that nothing dropped. I didn’t realize I was adding to the yoke, so to speak. After all, most of what I was doing was still very enjoyable and I liked keeping people happy, so I just kept on keeping on. That is, until I realized one day that I wasn’t doing everything with a joyful heart. When I was volunteering for some things, my heart wasn’t all the way in it. I was basically phoning things in to keep up what I had let myself get started doing. I was quickly becoming disillusioned with things, honestly. I realized then that I had to take back some of my time. I had to relinquish some of what I was holding onto and let someone else take it up instead. I had to learn to say no and not add more to my plate. That wasn’t the easiest thing for me to do because, as I said, I’m a people pleaser. If I said “no”, would people be mad at me? Would I upset their expectations of me? This was difficult to process, but what I came to realize is that it’s really and truly okay to say NO when you need to do that. You also don’t have to give an explanation. Your time is yours and what you do with it needs to bring you fulfillment to the degree possible, so if what you’re doing isn’t lifting you up, then it’s time to reevaluate. And, that’s just what I did. I cut back my volunteer commitments, but still stayed involved to the degree that worked better for me. I learned to be kind, but confident, in saying “I can’t commit to _____ at this time” and I saw that, on the whole, that was respected. My personal stress levels went down. I had more of myself to give at home. I had some ME time again. And, I still got to volunteer, but just not to the point where I was stretched entirely too far for my own comfort and fulfillment. It was the right thing to do and I am better off for having come to that decision.
Taking back my time didn’t hinder any processes either. Nothing I had worked on came to a screeching halt when I backed away from the charge. Instead, someone else was given an opportunity to step in and bring something new to the process. Sometimes I think that things have been done a certain way for so long that change is needed. I don’t ever want to get so entrenched in one way of doing things that I unintentionally create a hindrance to the process. When I felt the burden on my heart to step back, I believed that it was time to let someone else take the reigns. What I’ve seen has been good. And, the changes I have made have been good. I enjoyed being in PTA leadership, for instance, but now that I’m in Mariana’s last year of elementary, I am very much enjoying the role of “just” being a room mom. Every cog in the wheel plays a vital role, right? I’m still giving my time and I love that, but I’m also loving seeing positive changes that have come along since I was in leadership. It’s all a part of the process – doing your part while you can and moving on when it’s time. Believe me, there is always something else to be done and always another opportunity there for the taking. I very highly doubt we will ever see the day when volunteer opportunities are scarce.
If you’re finding yourself drowning in extra responsibilities or you just don’t find joy in giving of your time in certain ways, don’t ever feel badly about saying no. First, your time is precious and if you are spread too thin, you’re not really always able to give the best of yourself anyway. Establish reasonable boundaries that allow you to say YES as much as you can, but also to say NO when it doesn’t work for you. I encourage everyone to volunteer as you’re able and to give of your time to organizations you love and support. Absolutely. There is such a need out there and volunteers are often needed more than we even realize. That said, do what brings you joy because in doing that you will give more than you ever thought possible. If your heart is truly in what you are doing, you’ll give AND receive more abundant happiness.
To summarize, I’ll say this — life is better when we share the workload and it’s also too short to spend doing things that don’t fulfill your soul. So, absolutely find a way to give of your time and talents. Find an organization, school, church, or service that needs volunteers and give it a shot. By all means, give back as you’re able. But, also…take care of yourself. The greatest good you can give is when you’re giving freely and with a happy heart. Say YES when you can, but don’t be afraid to say NO when something just don’t work for you. As cliched as it may seem to say, I fully believe that when you do something you love, the “work” aspect seems to divide and the joy seems to multiply. So, give of your time, but don’t hesitate to set boundaries either.
Cheers to the volunteers,