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V is for Volunteering as a Venture in Vulnerability

Volunteers are vital.

Culturally, we value those who pitch in and help others, giving their own time and talents with no expectation of reward or remuneration. We may even join the effort ourselves.

But volunteering can also become vile.

What happens when a volunteer stops volunteering?

Anyone who is even mildly altruistic has likely experienced the frustration that can accompany the end of a stint as a volunteer.

Professionally, I’ve concluded pro bono projects, only to find the beneficiaries of my efforts still expecting free work to continue. In my free time, I’ve finished church and community assignments and been intrigued to see those I helped actually becoming somewhat annoyed that I chose not to sign on for another tour of duty, so to speak.

Maybe you’ve had similar experiences.

Have you offered neighbors’ kids rides home from school and found this to become a daily expectation? Do you babysit for family members and discover you’ve suddenly become the default child care provider? Are you the designated driver for every outing with your circle of friends?

A person can serve on his own time for many years and still feel rebuffed upon resignation.

It’s almost as if folks are asking, “What have you done for me lately”?

One of my kids is learning this difficult lesson right now.

Facing a season of shortened work hours, my daughter spent nearly three months doing daily chores for a short-staffed friend. When her real full-time job schedule resumed, she bowed out of the free help business.
What happened?

The friend and her actual employees grew frustrated that their workload suddenly increased, when my daughter stopped pitching in for free. They had become accustomed to her efforts, and they were miffed when their daily responsibilities returned to their original levels.

Volunteering is valuable, but it can make us vulnerable.

You can bet it’s all about boundaries. Let's not stop volunteering, but maybe we need upfront time limits on certain kinds of commitments. Sign us up for that, would you?
Last year’s A to Z post: Vital and Verdant

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From: A Helping Hand
Y Eugene de Blaas
Public Domain/Wikipedia Commons
2012 A to Z Blogging Challenge logo
Fair Use

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