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Rachael Gresham: Do you really have a volunteering attitude?

The telephone rings. Not the cell phone; if it was the cell phone, more than likely the person on the other end of the line is well known, a friend or relative, that may (or in some cases, may not) warrant a certain level of civility and idle chatter. This was the TELEPHONE, and therefore, an outright crap shoot, no telling who (or what) may be on the other end of the line.
“Hello?”
“Hi. This is Bob. I am calling people in your area to gather information for a new advertising campaign. Do you have time for a brief survey?” Oh boy, here we go. Let the back and forth banter begin.
“How brief?”
“Oh, it won’t take long at all. Just a few quick questions.”
It is always just a few quick questions, that turn into a 30-minute sing song dance of rate this and rate that on a scale of 1-10, or 1-5. Sigh.
“OK, shoot.”
“What religion do you affiliate yourself with?”
“Jesus Christ.” A plain, simple, to the point answer.
“Oh, no, I mean, uh, what religion do you practice?”
“I practice the religion of celebrating Jesus Christ.” Duh.
“Are you Catholic, Jewish, Protestant, Baptist?” Seriously, I think to myself, wondering what the state of my religion has to do with their advertising campaign.
“Next question.”
“Um, OK. Certainly. We can move to the next question. What political party do you affiliate yourself with?”
“Political party? Well, I suppose the one that guarantees my freedom to live in this country without oppression or tyranny.”
“Democratic then?”
No, not even remotely, but what the heck. “Fine.”
“How many hours do you volunteer on a monthly average?” Whoa. Back up. What? How many hours do I volunteer?
“Every single hour of my life! I volunteer to get out of bed. I volunteer to then make that bed, wash clothes, cook dinner, do the dishes, vacuum, dust, mop, the list goes on and on. Shall I go on and on?”
Bob on the end of the other line is getting slightly annoyed. “The question is how many hours do you selflessly give of your time to an organization or community cause,” Bob on the other end of the line prompts.
I thought my answer was pretty good. I do, after all, volunteer to do all of those things on a daily basis. Yet now that I think about it, do I do those things very well? I admit I often do them begrudgingly, without my whole heart in it, because in fact it is something I MUST do, and usually not because I WANT to.
Reflecting on my “volunteerism” I realize my attitude is somewhat lacking. Forget lacking, at times it is downright deplorable.
In order to give a glimpse into the window of my “volunteerism” at home, imagine my at-home attitude behind the line of the soup kitchen. “Here is your dinner. I don’t care if you like peas. It took all day to cook this for you. Happy Thanksgiving. Now go sit down and shut up.”
Or at the monthly PTA meeting, where volunteerism is not only required, it is branded with a fire-hot poker onto the derriere of every mother that dares to step into the cafeteria. “What?! You want meet to bake two dozen cookies for the school bake sale? But I just did that last year, and you want me to do it AGAIN? Well, I never! The nerve you people have!”
In reality, the public display of a volunteer attitude never goes like that at all. Ear to ear cheery smiles, almost always heartfelt, are emblazoned on the face. Sing song words of happy tidings flow out of the mouth like chirpy little humming birds flitting in and out of trees.
So why do I feel the need to bark at my spouse simply to tell him dinner is on the table? Or to wail pathetically that NOBODY cares about what I need?
It is true the every day seemingly tireless work of life is always there. It is true we must make a pointed effort to get up and attend to those tasks that, in the end, will never get easier, will need to be done over and over again, and more often than not, never be appreciated or even issued a thank you note for a job well done.
But must we do those things as if we have cinder blocks tied to our feet while a monsoon cloud of rain pours down overhead? If home is where the heart is, so to speak, and the starting point of every family’s community, shouldn’t that be the first place to adopt an attitude of selfless volunteerism? Isn’t the reward of a task supposed to be simply the fact that it was a task well done? It would seem that any task should not only be well done, but done with a happy heart. I’m not saying I see myself skipping to the curb while taking out the trash. I’m certainly not the making pancakes in the shape of Mickey Mouse and eggs with smiley faces type. It does seem that I need to have a heaping less of moaning and groaning and lot more sweet natured “happy to help.”
Bob on the other end of the line clears his throat. “Excuse me. Hello. Are you still there? How many hours do you selflessly give of your time to an organization or community cause?”
How much time indeed! Truthfully, not enough, not nearly even close to enough.

Rachael Gresham lives in Sumter County.