I’ve lost that idealistic feeling; now it’s gone, gone, gone…oh oh oh oh oh
There was a time in my idealistic youth when I thought I could change the world. In high school, I belonged to more organizations with catchy acronyms than should be allowed. There was S.T.O.P. (Students and Teachers Opposed to Prejudice), S.A.D.D. (Students Against Drunk Driving), and H.U.G.S. (Human Understanding and Growth Seminars). I volunteered at a local nursing home, and was both a peer counselor and peer educator. And being that I was such a goody two shoes, I was also occasionally tripped in the school hallway on purpose.
Attending college in Washington DC made it easy to stay involved. I marched for gay rights, walked to end the AIDS epidemic, and over the years took back a week’s worth of nights. As a Resident Hall Assistant (and later a Resident Director) I was so well-trained that I could have talked a student out of attempting suicide, led a floor program on health and wellness, and drained a keg down a shower drain all at the same time.
I was the queen of causes. Called naive and idealistic by some, others told me to never lose that passion and innocence. One guy, whom I had dated for a couple of months, broke up with me after being perpetually annoyed at my philosophy that everyone can make a difference. He left me with these final words, “Stay gold, babe.”
It’s not that I have stopped caring or stopped fighting for the things I believe in. But where volunteering and being involved used to energize me, these days, it feels more like an obligation.
Maybe it’s because I am currently juggling so many volunteer commitments I could be a performer for a (non elephant abusing) circus. I AM quite over committed at the moment. Currently I am serving as Assistant leader and cookie mom for my daughter’s Brownie troop; Chair of her youth group; and am editor of the monthly newsletter for my neighborhood civic association. The list goes on- just Tuesday night I spent half an hour cutting circles out of oak tag for my daughter’s teacher.
I know what you are thinking- JUST SAY NO!! YOU ARE BEING TOO NICE!! Here’s the thing. I did say no. I said no to the Girl Scouts so many times, I started to feel like a virgin on prom night. I said no so often I should have single-handedly won the war on drugs. So how do I end up feeling like behind my back people are whispering (I hear Meryl is so easy, she will volunteer for anybody)??
It’s the email pleas that get to me the most. You know, the progressive onslaught of emails that get more and more pleadingly desperate as they arrive in your inbox. Example:
Email 1 – We are looking for a volunteer to Chair the 3rd and 4th grade youth group. Please contact us if you are interested.
Email 2- We are still looking for a chair for the 3rd and 4th grade youth group. This is a great chance to get involved and give back to your community!
Email 3- We desperately need someone to chair the 3rd and 4th grade youth group. Do it for the kids!!
Email 4- If nobody steps up to be the chair of the 3rd and 4th grade youth group, we will have to cancel the youth group and the kids will have to do without.
Darn Jewish guilt! It gets me every time. And it shouldn’t. It’s not like the email read, “if nobody drops off these meals at the homeless shelter the kids will go hungry.” In reality, it’s closer to, if there is no 3rd and 4th grade youth group, the 3rd and 4th graders will have no organized trips to the bowling alley with their Sunday school friends. Stop the suffering! Save the children! And yet, I caved. They probably sent Email 4 exclusively to me after the Girl Scouts told them what a push over I am.
A rabbi of a congregation I used to belong to once told us that he gets asked a lot if he believes world peace is achievable. His response was that if every person focused on making their own tiny corner of the universe a little bit better, the world would be a much more peaceful place.
Sometimes, you have to work with what you’ve got. I am trying to find ways to create peace in my tiny corner of the world. Whether it’s creating a multicultural word find to go in the puzzle section of my newsletter or taking advantage of a teachable moment with one of the great kids I get to interact with, the opportunities are out there. I figure, if I can inspire one person to think about things differently and that one person pays it forward, (and so on) well, maybe I can change the world after all.