When you wear many hats, you have to remember which hat you’re wearing and when.
Last time, I discussed how service-minded farm families really kick in when it comes to community service and helping out their neighbors. It is a splendid rural tradition to help folks who need it. But there are pitfalls and challenges involved when you wear so many hats, all at the same time.
1) Burnout. Farmers are as tough as they come, and usually their wives and children are organized enough to keep farmers on schedule with farm tasks, family needs and volunteer activities. But when involvement becomes overwhelming and it is difficult to recall which hat you are wearing and when, it might be time to trim less important commitments.
2) Upsetting the applecart. Small towns and rural neighborhoods are wonderful places to raise a family, but everyone knows everyone else’s business. People are very open and accessible. If you have a leadership role on the school board, natural resource district board or community club, if things go wrong or if there is a controversial matter in front of these groups, people will walk up to you at the ball game or after church on Sunday to complain. You have to be relatively thick-skinned in these matters, because they won’t care if you are wearing your “daddy” hat or your “farming” hat at the time, they will want to discuss what is on their minds. Sometimes rural folks have a difficult time separating personal life and your life in that leadership role. Be prepared for these encounters.
3) Finding people to run. Because fielding unflattering comments and criticism while serving the community on boards and councils is unpleasant, it becomes difficult to find good candidates to run for local government and agency offices and positions in rural areas. Human nature avoids conflict, so if you are one of those folks who hates controversy, or is afraid to step on people’s toes, stay away from the high profile posts. Stick with coaching little league. On second thought, that is one of the toughest positions in a small town. Find something easier. If you like stirring things up, feel free to throw your hat in the ring when the next election cycle comes up.
4) Piling on. Sometimes life’s situations require us to wear all of our hats – Dad, husband, farmer, church volunteer, school board member, community club president, 4-H leader – at the same time. That’s a lot of hats. Important things can get pushed aside. When we get confused about which one is most important, always refer back to the first two, maybe three, items on that list. Family and farm always come first.
I wear a lot of hats these days myself. Sometimes I don’t do a very good job of juggling all of the responsibilities I’ve accepted. Sometimes I forget which ones are the most important.
I do know that it takes “all hands on deck” in rural areas to keep up our quality of life. We can’t wait for help. We often have to do things on our own. That’s OK. We like being self-reliant. We’re good at it.
And the more folks who do a little bit in a small town, the less chance there is that farmers and their families and other active rural residents will become burned out or suffer from any of the other obstacles of serving their community.
Service is supposed to be rewarding. The more people who are involved in serving others, the more rewarding it is.