About 10 years ago I was accused by a local of being a bad volunteer. I immediately resigned my post and waited curiously to see who would take my place. Of course what happened—as it so often does in small rural communities—is that no one did. We now had no volunteer.
As I wrote my “Talking Stick” article I began to realize that all these folks who had approached me for funding were also the volunteers of their communities. They not only provided the foundation for a better “quality of life” for their communities, they were also the fundraisers. These incredible individuals or groups often go about their business with little fanfare, mostly unnoticed; yet with funding for rural communities at a premium, their value cannot and should not be underestimated They build communities, one brick at a time.
I find it disturbing that the loudest voices in our little communities often point fingers of incompetence, wrongdoing, and bad decision-making at our most cherished assets: the longtime volunteers. Whether you don’t like the process, disagree with a decision, or just don’t like the volunteer, the loud dissenting voice could become a more effective voice if you chose to lift a hand to volunteer yourself.
Sadly, most of these shouts for justice do nothing to move a community forward. On the contrary: they often create rumblings that gnaw at the harmony of small town life. In extreme cases it can actually create a scenario where the townsfolk are choosing sides: not based on the issue, or the project, or the idea, but on what side it came from.
Maybe all of us should try to be a little more understanding and a little more compromising, no matter what side of the fence we stand on. Only then will a rebuilding of trust begin to blossom, and a community begin to bloom.
Let us also take the time to say THANK YOU, and to buy our new and longtime volunteers a coffee, or a beer at the local pub, once in a while, just to let them know that the time they give their community is noted and much appreciated. Cheers to our volunteers!