Ladies and Gentlemen, can I get a volunteer?
When we hear these words it brings us back to a magic show or the circus or perhaps a performance at the New England aquarium. In my younger years, I attended such a show and did raise my hand to be part of the sea lion performance. When I was selected and was asked to go on stage, it was very exciting. I was going to be part of the show! I was instructed to stand still and do whatever I was told. The sea lion performed his trick, the last being a kiss on my cheek. He, of course, got all the applause. After all, he was the star of the show. I spent the rest of the day happy to have been a part of something fun, but also left smelling of fish.
Many years later, when I read in the paper that a Town Committee was looking for a volunteer, I again raised my hand. Friends and family were supportive, telling me that I would be great in such a position. I am not much of a politician, but this appointment didn’t seem to be a political role. Merely an enforcement group with a very defined set of rules to uphold: Laws, in fact. But I quickly learned that everyone reads the rules differently, and others feel the rules don’t apply to them and they should be granted an exception. When these people don’t get what they want, a battle ensues and the officials become ‘The Bad Guys”.
I have been a member of both successful committees and some not so successful. My experience has been that at first it always seems like a good idea to volunteer. After all, I can make a difference, right? But here are some lessons that I have learned:
- There will always be someone with an agenda or constituency (no matter the level of service).
- Good or bad, a group of individuals (a committee) is always heard as a group, even if its members are all saying different things.
- People will more likely base their decisions on popular opinion rather than spend the time to research the fact of a matter.
Now that my relatively short stint in public office is complete, I am glad to have had the opportunity to serve my community. I have also learned some valuable lessons about myself and society. And I did escape this time without smelling of fish.
So I ask you again, Ladies and Gentlemen, can I get a volunteer?
Call the Town Hall, there are openings available.
Wendy Carreau, Marion
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