When you’re asked to volunteer to do something, what’s your first response: I can or I can’t? If I can’t do the big thing someone asked me, can I contribute in a small way? Or is my answer immediately, “I can’t.” It’s all in the attitude.
I just finished a weekend square and round dance festival, Duke City Singles and Doubles’ Spring Fling, and yes, I’m exhausted, but in a good way. I’ve been the chairperson of this event since 2013, was the chair from 1997 to 2000, and I have taken part on the committee for 24 years. Why?
Today when I looked around at the sheer joy on happy dancers’ faces as they twirled and spun around the dance floor, all my hard work was worth it! The rewards resounded. That’s why I volunteer!
In 1994, I attended my first Fling (that’s what we called it then) as a dancer only and caught the square dance fever. In 1995, the chairperson asked me to help on advertising, and I failed miserably because I didn’t know what I was doing. But that was a learning experience—ask questions when you don’t know!
In 1996, our club took over this festival, and I agreed to be the co-chairperson, again not knowing what I was doing. The next year I moved up to be the chairperson! People believed I could do the job, and their belief confirmed I could. I had no idea what I was doing but someone needed to step up, and I said, “Yes, I can!” The previous chairperson had put together a manual for running a festival, so I followed that for many years until I got my system in place.
My involvement with this has gone on and on. Why continue doing it or why do it at all, you may ask. Volunteering has been core to my life for the last 25 years. I don’t hesitate; I jump in and worry about the specifics later.
I have volunteered for other activities besides square dancing, and I love the connections I’ve made with people over the years and the rewards from those activities.
After being involved in this festival for years, three square dance girlfriends asked if I would chair the National Singles Square Dance Festival for Singles in Albuquerque in 2003. They said they would help if I headed it. They had worked with me on our local festival and liked the results. Again, I didn’t flinch, and again I had no experience at chairing a national event, so I took my time-tested knowledge from our smaller event and applied it, and we had a smashing success.
So why volunteer? Someone has to do the work—the event won’t happen without you, without me! Is it time consuming? Yes! Will you have to work with disagreeable people? Probably! But what else in life offers deep connections with people which we all crave?
I have a wealth of wonderful memories that became a byproduct of volunteering. Several women dancers sat around a table and hand painted our square dance outfits one year. We laughed and shared our lives as we painted. Our hostess dropped her paintbrush on her vest and remarked, “That’s a bird,” and it worked out fine. Today when I wear that outfit, my heart glows with those moments.
My friend, Kathi, and I stayed up until 3:30 AM one Saturday because one of our talkative club members distracted the band who was trying to put up their instruments and equipment and get home at one of the Flings. We watched this talker and tried to get him away from the band but back he went repeatedly! Whenever we recalled this, we joked about who would sit on him next year so we could get home earlier, but what a memory!
At this talkative friend’s funeral, I shared this story with his family with a laugh and a lot of love in my heart.
I sprayed a caller in the face with Silly String at our National Square Dance Convention for singles which started a war of Silly String the whole weekend. I ended up being the biggest target. What rich memories!
Because of my involvement in this national organization, I have dear friends all over the USA—because I volunteered years ago at our local event. See what happens? The opportunities grew and grew from volunteering, and I became self-assured about my talents in organizing an event like this.
I’m tired tonight. Each year when the Spring Fling is over for another year, I look into the faces of the committee members and my co-chair and marvel at their commitment, their willingness to take part and am so deeply touched. The success unites us together as a force, and immediately the thought moves to next year’s events and what we needed to do.
Believe me, the rewarding answer when someone asks you to volunteer is “Yes, I can,” and you will never know where it will take you!
Do you volunteer? If so, where? What have been your rewards?
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