An article on volunteering by Steven Skyles-Mulligan reprinted from the May 1998 issue of Times Squared

Here’s an article that will help you think about the best way you can volunteer to help make Times Squares better.

I continue to be amazed at the variety of individuals who decide to square dance, as well as their talents and other interests. We are such a diverse group that square dancing is often the only thing we have in common. Sure, friendships – even romances – form, but so do less-positive relationships. And often one can hear complaints in the air, either about individuals or about the way this or that was done. I enjoy dish as much as the next person; my sister, Blanche, and I have been known to pass large parts of an evening sitting in the corner making “observations” about eh world. Still, in an organization like ours, it can be very damaging. I’m convinced that one reason people seldom volunteer for things is an overriding sense that whatever they do will be picked apart by other well-meaning members. Because of our current poor financial situation and decreasing membership, it’s critical that we do everything we can to strengthen our sense of community, even though it is built around a single interest. Here are some questions for each of us to ask before we offer complaints, comments or criticism:

  • Is the event/situation over? If it is, it’s a done deal and nothing can be done to change it now.
  • Do I have a concrete idea for improving the situation? If so, share it!
  • Am I willing to work to implement my ideas? Terrific!
  • Could I really do a better job than the person who ran the event? Would I be willing to put in the effort to do it?
  • Am I really just venting? If so, admit it! The person who’ listening to you may not mind nearly so much if they know you only expect them to listen.
  • This doesn’t mean that there isn’t room for the occasional complaint (and the Board will of course continue to listen.) But we all need to be more supportive of each other’s work within the organization. Otherwise, we are in for some very unhappy times indeed.

I recognize that this is not the most upbeat topic, but I thought it was important to broach the issue. After all, Spring is the time to chase the dust and cobwebs from the corners. Your comments and suggestions are welcome.