My paid ‘job’ is that of a pastor, which means I work for a church – frequently described as a volunteer or not-for-profit organization. I also volunteer at a local fire department – a bunch of men and women risking their lives for the sake of others. And I’m a mom, which is probably the epitome of a non-paid and yet amazingly rewarding (and exhausting) job. Anyway, I say all this mostly to say, I spend a lot of time and being a volunteer and hanging out with volunteers.
The most common talk I hear in my volunteer circles is:
Daily demands are such that every single one of us is being pulled in a million directions – be it children activities (baseball, soccer, theater, gymnastics, homework, school, ect), non-stop work (we can’t even leave the office anymore with the ‘joys’ of technology), home repairs and maintenance (my gutters… haven’t been cleaned in 3 years. This IS going to be a problem soon), or religious obligations (worship, service projects). That doesn’t even take into account visiting family, catching up with friends, hobbies, basic life organization, commuting (which in my neck of the world, driving is practically a full-time job), or relaxing (I know, I know. What’s relaxing?!)
Most volunteer organizations, no matter what type, are ALL facing the exact same problem: not enough players.
ALL volunteer organizations are in the same predicament: Playing baseball without any outfielders.
Let me explain.
20 years ago or so volunteer organizations were set up to field a whole team of players. We had those who volunteered with the landscaping, those who helped balance the books, those would pitch in with maintenance, or office help. There were those who would volunteer their time to teach or train or lead. We had a whole team to make the game run according to the ‘rules’. And not only that, we had a bench too – backups who could give the ‘starters’ a break.
Maybe 10 years ago or so our outfield began to empty out, leaving our infielders to scramble around trying to catch every single ball that came their way. This worked for awhile, because we had very athletic infielders and somehow the shortstop was able to dash into left field and catch the long ball, but… as we all know, our infielders are tired.
And we don’t have a full lineup anymore, let alone a bench. Now before you think the next thing I’m going to say is, “It’s time to forfeit the game,” let me borrow a line from Yogi Berra, “The game ain’t over ’til it’s over.”
Most of us volunteer because we love the game. The only reason to forfeit when we still have players willing to play is because the love of the game has been lost. And… if you’re a volunteer (I don’t care if it’s in a church, a school, a safety or health organization, for a recreational sports league, or as a politician. Or, you just give everything you have to your job because you care….”), let me say one thing:
“You gotta be a man [or woman] to play baseball for a living, but you gotta have a lot of little boy [or girl] in you too.” (Roy Campanella). I hope you still love your ‘game’. It’s the most important thing.
And if you’ve lost your love of the game… I’m sorry. Please, read that again. I’m sorry.
There may be ‘no crying’ in baseball, but I think many of us want to play the game we love so dearly and we no longer know how to field a team and well, that just sucks. Ain’t no other way to say it.
As I said, I work for a church… and well, we as the church, we’ve been striking out and dropping quite a few balls, but that doesn’t mean the love of God and worship and people no longer matter. It only means maybe it’s time to ‘play’ differently.
Heck, if baseball can institute the DH (designated hitter), add the ‘called strike’ (yes, at one time there was no such thing as a ‘called strike’), and rethink home plate collisions with the catcher (which up until this year seemed to be just part of the game) and the game still lives on as the greatest game on earth, then our volunteer organizations can and should take a good hard look at our play books and rule books.
I know for those of us who have been at this for a long time it’s hard to think about changing the rules. Believe me. I know. But I love the game more than the rules. What could be added to your ‘game,’ left behind, switched up? I feel a bit as if I’m giving a ‘peptalk’ on the sidelines and saying, “Get back out there…” and that’s sorta not my style. I hate not having a solid game plan. But I was thinking about how we all learned to play baseball and it was precisely by ‘getting back out there’.
Now, I don’t know what ‘rules’ need to change for your group, but I do know that if you still love the ‘game’ the game’s still waiting for you…
I’d rather go down swinging than looking. What about you? Wanna take a whack at that ball? I’d like to say, “Because you may just hit a home run,” but I’m just hoping for a single. Right now, let’s just start getting some people on base.
And if you’re a ‘player’ that left the game; forfeited your turn… we’d really like to have you back on the team.