Showing posts with label volunteering. Show all posts
Showing posts with label volunteering. Show all posts

Monday, June 04, 2007

Finally Relaxing

Yesterday I had a busy and full day. I was riding on the energy of nearly 1,000 people happily connecting and learning about Buddhism. It was hard work, and we had few volunteers doing the major planning. I was the major planner. For several weeks I've been very busy making sure this could happen without a hitch, small interlude of very busy birthday prep, birthday party, then back to the busy organizing. I was nearly floored by allergies, possible cold, but this could not go on without me. It was an incredible success, more people came than the three previous years.

Here I am captured being busy. And here with Maia from BPF's home office. She happened to be visiting Oregon on vacation. I was happy the whole day, especially happy to see Maia. A very few people were cranky over things not being quite right: we didn't have water available for them (there was a water fountain right there in the park); one woman was adamant that I was not clear about the "no donations may be accepted" rule (I don't know how many times I repeated that in email). Legitimately, we did not have enough restrooms. Only one of the two park restrooms was unlocked for us. We were counting on that...not enough groups gave us enough money to have the money to rent porta-potties. At the end of the day, we have enough money for seed money for next year: our one food vendor donated all her proceeds to the festival. Portland folks, be sure to visit Sawasdee Thai.

Most people were delighted and happy with our offerings. Some people came especially for the blessings of people and pets, others for the Burmese dancers. At least one even brought her cat. Visit that photo, I just love it. Actually I love all the photos that Jan took. I overheard some people talking about bringing their dogs, but they didn't think a cat could handle it. Mine certainly couldn't.

Eugene Wong also took some nice photos, found here. I didn't have the time to take photos myself.

Thanks to my raw allergy-ravaged throat, I was not hungry all day. I was also riding high on the positive energy all around. I ate very little. I knew that wasn't the best idea, but I couldn't bring myself to eat something when the food was there. Finally I ate an almond snack bar that was in my backpack. Later I shared some chocolate from that same backpack with my BPF compadre Aaron. 2006 photo:



He hadn't eaten either. Even later I snagged and we shared a croissant from an earlier activity in the children's pavilion.

At the end of the day, I realized I never really stepped back and partook of the festival for myself. I enjoyed stepping away from duties as coordinator when I went to the children's pavilion, but I was still giving, not receiving. The kids just loved our little lesson on altars, and my clay art project of making their own tiny statue. (Just as I'd done in Dharma School, found here. That reminds me, I have another Dharma School lesson still to write up...I've just been too busy with this.) I croaked my way through a storytime, a couple of kids listening attentively while I used the microphone connected to my Sponge Bob Squarepants karaoke boom box.

When I did wander the booths, it was still with my duties as coordinator in mind. Were people taking donations or selling things when they shouldn't? Did I get a brochure from that group? Mostly Aaron and I busily sold items as one of the three vendors allowed under the terms of our permit. We sold some few things for other groups under consignment. We had to be careful to mark the invoices when we sold things.

That's ok, though. I did this willingly. I did this happily.

At the end of the day though I was left holding the bag. The garbage bag that is. Somehow almost all those Buddhist communities that were so happy that we few volunteers arranged this were gone, cleared out, already packed up. And there were mounds of garbage that still needed to be packed out. Steve had dropped me off in the morning, helped unpack the car, and gone to work. He came back at the end, and packed most of the car. We added the large sign that now needed to be stored at my house.


We didn't have the room for giant bags of garbage. I began to melt down. Nobody to help with the packing up. Fortunately one indefatigable volunteer loaded her truck with chairs going back to a neighboring temple. One group that was still there took a couple bags of garbage. I was beginning to feel the sting of sun on my face.

Steve and I went home, unpacked, and he returned to the park for the remaining garbage while I foraged at home for food. I looked over feedback forms, feeling the sting of the negative comments, giving them more weight than they deserved due to my drop in energy, a drop that continued today. Today I was dog-tired, depressed tired, loss-of-momentum tired. Poor Steve got the brunt of my resentful feelings, and he began to feel I should quit if I was going to be so unappreciated. Later I told him, "it helped to be witnessed, and get out the negative thoughts so they weren't rattling around lonely in my head anymore." Because really the positive outcomes and the positive comments far outweigh the few complaints.

I avoided my urges to send more emails, planning emails for post-event debrief planning. Post-event thoughts on how we could improve things. Post-event thoughts on how to respond to the "needs improvement" comments. I forced myself to relax. I finally took a shower. I watched bad TV. I ate boiled beets and their greens from this week's farmer's market. I think I needed that iron. I finally felt some energy coming back, and happier about the festival.

Later perhaps I will write a post about the organizer types apparently everyone encounters when they try to organize democratically like this. It may be a snarky post. Hopefully I can be light-hearted about it. Today I was not so, and I had to explain to the one who sees my naked heart that he gets a skewed view. He's the one I am able to melt down with. He's the one I'm safe to do that with. That it wasn't as negative an experience as he was getting from me.

I got caught up on some blogs I read. And while I read I found Talk Sex with Sue Johanson on the TV. (That's not the bad TV...that was, dare I say it...C.S.I) I love her, but some of the questions can be pretty ignorant. This is what abstinence sex ed gets us. At least I had one thing better than kids these days. I may not have had cell phones and computers, but I did have good sex ed in school. I tuned in just as a caller was asking about having sex as a larger person. Sue adamantly recommended a book called Big Big Love. I promptly ordered one, easy enough since Steve got Amazon Prime. Watch for a review sometime soon.

I got a couple sweet comments on older posts from Adrienne in California. I spent some of that time reading backwards through her blog. I admire her criticism of sex-phobic therapy trends, and she herself is a sex-positive, alternative relationship-friendly therapist. And I am smitten with her sweet face and beautiful hair.

Sunday, January 04, 2004

On Volunteering

I have often done volunteer work. When I graduated from college, somehow I had acquired a notion it was important to give to society. It's important to pay my taxes without a quibble, and important to help make the world a better place. At the same time, I fretted over doing volunteer work that I thought ought to be paid work. I volunteered for a women's crisis line, which does have some staff, and as the staff reminded us, if it was ALL paid work, the revolutionary aspect would be lost. Instead of kindness driving the labor, it would be money.

OK, I could see that. Another place I volunteered was a family center, sort of related to Head Start, now expanded. Now here, clearly volunteers were needed because funds were finite, and this bugged me. Why does our society fund the atrocities of war and militarism, but can't make sure all families get the health care, parent training, education, food, and shelter that they need? We could pay for all these things ten times over if we didn't have the war machine guzzling all our labor's fruits. I am pissed off that my tax dollars are paying for bombers that are killing people RIGHT NOW, yet non-profit organizations struggle to provide enough meals for the needy, and must rely on donations and volunteers.

I work at the library and people volunteer there. Often the work of volunteers cuts into the work of paid union labor. We are told they're there for that extra "push", and because people love the library and want to volunteer there. That work should be done by paid labor, there's no reason we shouldn't fund our libraries to the point of gluttony. So that yes, we can hire teen interns who can get that valuable work experience while at the same time no union labor is lost. Yet even in a town that is known across America for loving its libraries, we don't have enough funds to meet with rising demand.

Now more than ever I am doing volunteer work, but I don't count the hours for "recognition" as I did at those previous non-paid jobs. Now there are certain things I see as valuable labor that should be a labor of love, such as helping to organize peace rallies, or teaching people about meditation. (It always makes me squeamish to see fees for workshops on teaching meditation.) I remember reading in an alternative newspaper that one should always get paid for writing, yet I can't imagine being paid for the gig I have for a Buddhist newsletter--reporting on Oregon Buddhist news. I do it out of love for the subject and to meet the people, and sure, it'll help my writer's resume. I also can't imagine being paid to do the networking and clerical things and meeting of people that I do as a contact for the Buddhist Peace Fellowship. I rather selfishly want a chapter here, so I do it.

This volunteering that builds community is essential. At my zen center, it is part of the spiritual practice to take on tasks, to help the community become larger than us individual parts. There is the idea that if you give more than your 'fair share' then there is never a lack. There is tremendous generosity to be found in selflessness, something zen is all about. Funny thing, I find that same sort of selfless generosity in the alternative sexual/ sex-positive community. On New Year's Eve I attended a Darklady party. Name the alternative sex scene, Darklady has contacts. So this is a pansexual party, friendly to all, including the shy. There's a 'play' space, and a 'dungeon', well in this case since it was a prom theme, 'detention'. There's space to socialize and meet people, space to dance, space to be a wallflower. Darklady parties have been a first encounter for many into the sex-positive world, the polyamorous world, the kinky world. Several dozen people helped to make it happen, and didn't expect to receive anything but a good time. Many of those same several dozen people came back to clean up. They put my puny cloakroom shift to shame, in the generosity department.

Here's the thought I'm beginning to form then: volunteerism is essential when it comes to matters of selflessness. Building community. Revolutionizing community. It's not about the money, it's about the greater good, and it;s about friendship. The women's crisis line folks were right: we weren't just there to help people in crisis, we were there to help people in crisis realize a different world is possible. Sometimes people joke about the Church of Darklady (who loves to mess with churchy types), but joke aside they refer to a better sex-positive pan-sexual world. With this type of volunteer work, society is changed, people are changed. Helping out at the soup kitchen is compassionate, but it doesn't change the person or society. It's simply needed, and it should be paid. Revolution on the other hand, when has it not been tainted by money?