Being Volunteered

We have a saying in our house that we don’t always volunteer for things, sometimes we are volun-told. That means we weren’t asked if we wanted to participate/work in the extra activity, we were just told to do it. For example, we usually help our church with the summer kid’s program (Vacation Bible School or VBS). My mom would talk to the director of VBS and when a need came up that she thought we could reasonably fill she would just say, “Oh, Cornelia can do that!” I wasn’t there to decide to do it. She just decided I would and then she would let me know later. I was volun-told because I was committed but I hadn’t volunteered myself.

There have been times I had a bad experience being volun-told but on the whole I feel like I’ve had more positive than negative times. Actually, many times I’ve been glad to be volun-told because I really would’ve missed out on some fun stuff.

If I’m given the option I will almost always sit on the sidelines. I prefer to not inconvenience myself with something I may find marginally uncomfortable. Hard work? Yeah, I avoid that when I can. Not that I’d say I’m a very lazy person. I feel like I know when the effort needs to be made and I make it. But give me the option to do nothing or as little as possible and I’ll take it. It’s really something all of us do at some point because we prefer the path of least resistance. We naturally want to avoid added strain.

Honestly, I think we need to volun-tell people more often than we do. It seems like these days we’re terrified of stepping on anyone’s feelings that we barely even ask someone to do something. It’s like “Hey, I kinda need someone to help out in the church nursery so maybe if you’re not, you know, busy, or anything and if you don’t mind, and if you feel like it, could you possibly be available?”

Surely that conveys the urgency of your request because in reality the only people helping in nursery have been you and one other person who only shows up every 3rd Sunday on a full moon. So you actually REALLY need someone to help out. Perhaps instead it should be phrased like, “I need someone else for nursery. Can you please commit to one Sunday a month?”

And that’s not even being volun-told. Not really. It’s just pointedly asking. Being volun-told is something only people really close to you can do because otherwise the person in charge isn’t going to believe them. I and my siblings were volunteered by our parents for plenty of things. I suppose you could also be volunteered by your spouse or even your best friend or a teacher (if it’s class related) because it’s basically anyone who appears to have some authority over/with you.

I’ve learned to live with being volun-told and like I said, most things have been largely positive. I think that, as a child and a teen, it was good for me because I gained more experiences. If my parents had given me a choice I probably would’ve never gone outside or participated in the world and been afraid to do anything. I’m not saying we should start volunteering people for eighty-thousand things. I’m more or less saying that there are times when you don’t realize you can do something until you start doing it. I didn’t realize I could wrangle a small group of children and lead them around the church to different activities until my mom said she signed me up to be a helper for VBS when I was in high school. I didn’t realize I had decent customer service skills until I started one of my first jobs and had to actually deal with people (I guess since I applied for the job I was volun-telling myself but there was outside pressure that I needed to start working so I’m counting it).

Sometimes you just need a little push in the right direction. You may learn new skills or learn that you had the skills all this time. Or you might also fail miserably. But in the very least, you might learn that you really DON’T want to do that thing with your life and that alone is valuable to you.


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