When it comes to volunteering, you gotta put up or shut up
posted by: Guest Blogger
I swore last year that we would never go to Cub Scout Day Camp again. After three days of loosely planned activities, other people’s ill-behaved boys, wind-whipped hair and a sunburn (my mom told me that I needed to wear sunscreen, even on overcast days but I didn’t listen), I decided that next year I would plan our summer vacation for the same week as Cub Scout Camp.
Even though we registered weeks in advance last year, the first day of camp we stood in line for an hour and a half to check in. I’ve never stood in line for that long for anything. (Well, except for tickets to the Star Wars movies, but that kind of mania is another post for another day.) Have you ever stood in line for an hour and a half with 150 eight to ten year-old boys? Not fun. I did all the standing. My boys, along with 148 others ran and rolled and wrestled, while the other well-meaning mothers and I grew increasingly impatient.
After standing in line we were put in our groups. The plan was that for every five boys from your pack that participated, you needed to provide one walking leader?? Okay, that sounded fair. I brought five boys from my pack, all well behaved somewhat manageable. All of them knew me and I knew their folks. So I had the option of threatening to call their dads if they got out of line.
But everything went horribly wrong when Scouts started showing up without the intended ratio of five-to-one adult supervision, as specified by the camp. Instead of five boys, I ended up with 12, one of whom was not even a Cub Scout. I think his mom just saw the sign and thought, “Hey, free day care!”
Despite the fact that it was hot, the activities were under-staffed and the adults were outnumbered twelve to one, I tried to make the best of it. I mentally prepared myself to walk with the boys from station to station, handle the scuffles and whining, but I hadn’t prepared for planning a skit or teaching them the rules of badminton. Two skills that I was thankfully able to reach far back into the gray matter and retrieve having myself been a camper in a previous life.
Of the two and a half days of knot tying, wood working, and first aid instruction, it was the BB gun shooting the boys enjoyed the most. After they would take their turn shooting they would swagger over to another kid and brag about how many targets they hit. They would stick their chest out and deepen their voices, as they would strategize about how they are going to beat their previous record. Boy after boy turned a little bit more into man with the toppling of each tin can.
I must have brain damage because we signed up again. I volunteered again to be a “walking leader.” Why you ask? Why would I go back? Because I believe that when it comes to volunteering, you have to put up or shut up. Nothing makes me more upset than to have parents moan and complain about camp or team sports or school activities when they themselves have not a single volunteer hour to their credit.
You know the type. They are the first to complain about too many sugar snacks at the class party, but have yet to bring any themselves. They are the parents that challenge the ref when he calls Junior’s swing a strike, but have never volunteered to be the team manager. They are the ones that say that the equipment on the playground is too old, but have never participated in any of the school fundraisers. So if I want to have my say, make my suggestions, or voice my complaints, I feel like I had better have a record of involvement to back it up.
The camp organizers assured me that this year was going to be better. I hope so! Or next year I will just buy a couple of BB guns and take my boys out to the desert and let them make Swiss cheese out of aluminum cans. They’ll still get the testosterone rush they crave that comes with shooting stuff up and I’ll spare myself from having to witness the death of volunteerism first hand.
How do you volunteer? Have you seen a decline in participation in your organization? How can we keep volunteerism alive?