In small towns and rural neighborhoods, it takes lots of elbow grease and volunteerism to make things tick. Our quality of life in rural America is due, in part, to the selflessness of our citizens. If we see something that needs to be done, we don’t wait for Congress to act or for a federal program to kick in. We just roll up our sleeves and get it done. It has always been that way, and continues on today.
Because there are fewer folks to rely on in small towns, many citizens attempt to wear many hats. The town mayor might also sit on a church board, work with the community club or chamber of commerce, and lead a local 4-H club. Busy people take on big jobs and are able to juggle many duties all at the same time.
The problem with this situation is that we often aren’t able to separate those volunteer duties from personal life. If someone takes a position or inadvertently does something in the course of volunteering that upsets folks, some people are inclined to take it out on them in their personal lives, or to speak of these volunteers in a less than positive way. Wearing many hats often brings with it the chance that someone will not like what we are doing or trying to accomplish.
I’ve known folks who volunteered their time away from their families and paying employment to help out their churches, schools or communities by leading a project or program. Paid civil servants, teachers and administrators and other rural folks have been involved in volunteer efforts to fundraise for their causes or improve their communities through specialized projects. Then, when they make a simple mistake or they don’t communicate effectively with someone about the project or program, they are lambasted for their efforts.
While the holiday season is supposed to bring happiness and peace, the extra festivities and unusual tensions brought about by new activities, changes in our normal routines and pressures of family gatherings sometimes make us even edgier than ever. Folks are touchy and become angry about silly things. They chew people out who are well meaning and hardworking. They don’t give folks the benefit of the doubt. They are unforgiving and ungrateful.
This is quite sad, because the result is that no one wants to lead volunteer projects, run for church council or school board, because they fear this kind of backlash if they slip up. They don’t like getting yelled at and don’t enjoy having their names run down around town, especially for a volunteer or extra duty.
Having been in the position of wearing many hats at one time, I can tell you how it feels to be on the receiving end of misguided anger. It really has no place in small towns, or big ones for that matter. We all need to chill out and relax, not taking ourselves so seriously. Life is too short to be mad at people for no good reason.
I believe there are times when we need to stand up for what we believe in and stand firm, but even in these times, we can do it in a civil manner, without getting angry or letting passions lead us down that ugly road. Our towns are too small to burn bridges in our relationships with each other. We all need a little anger management once in a while, and if we feel ourselves getting upset with some of our fellow citizens for no good reason, it’s always best to let them up easy. My philosophy has always been that I probably shouldn’t cast stones, unless I feel that I’m perfect myself. And not many living people could make a claim of perfection with a straight face. After all, pobody's nerfect!
Here is this week’s discussion question. Have you ever been lambasted in a volunteer job for something you didn’t do? You can share your thoughts and discussion right here.
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