Sob Story

On the volunteering front, though the last time I wrote I'd been feeling optimistic, my fledgling hope has since been kicked to the curb. For a while, I'd been happily challenged with my bulletin board project, confident that an online forum was exactly what the volunteers at Oxfam Japan needed to unite our scattered troops--weeks after joining, most of the volunteers out there remain silent faceless figures, doing their independent thing. Which of course is great. I mean, sure, I read The Power of One when I was a young lass and had, then, felt ready to take on the world single-handedly (and to also take up boxing on the side). But now, fully entrenched in stodgy-hearted adulthood, I'm more inclined toward The Power of More-Than-One, especially when the goal is to make a significant difference.

Unfortunately--or fortunately, as most people would likely agree--it would seem that Oxfam Japan only has one uninspired sap who needs the crutch of others to accomplish anything. My online bulletin board has not met with much enthusiasm. While I’ve been imagining long, active threads where we volunteers would exchange ideas, offer feedback and criticisms, and get motivated, the reality is that my fellow volunteers have been doing just fine without any help; while I've been dithering about online, everyone else has been out there, getting real things done.

Sorry if this is a bit whiny, but I feel so discouraged. It seems my initial reaction of doubt about my ability to do much for Oxfam Japan was well founded. I was right: I lack the necessary qualities for this particular environment.

I’ve always been a background support kind of girl. I adored singing in the choir but performing solos made me nauseated. When our drama class did a production, I was in the sound effects department, not up there on stage. Though I’m too proud (and foolishly so) to be a follower, I’ve never had the heart of a leader. I hate giving orders as much as I hate being ordered, and I'd be a hopeless, floppy mess if I tried to gather people together for a rousing rally or fundraiser. So when I came upon the idea of a bulletin board, I felt charged with a real purpose. I thought I could do something that, if not loud and proud, might at least have indirect, long-term benefits.

When I check in on my message board from time to time, the lack of response from the other volunteers feels like a personal failure. In some ways, volunteering can be more intimidating than any regular job, because you are offering your self on a fundamental level for something more important than personal satisfaction or gain. You’re forced to ask yourself: What is my value? What can I do for a community, for a human being, for an organization that needs help?

I may not have initiative or creativity, but—at the risk of sounding like I’m at my first job interview—I’m a hard worker. I feel like somewhere very close by, parallel to my own path is a whole other road that I should be on, doing something more, giving something more of my self. And I would, if only I could find the connecting lane. Sometimes I get so wound up because it feels like every second I spend living is wasted. Some people depend upon religion to give them the reassurance that there is more to life, more than life. I’ve never cared or worried about what comes after. For me, only life now matters and we are free to use it or let it be snatched out of our hands like litter dangled out of a speeding car’s window. I guess this kind of thinking could lead to insanity. But anyone who’s read my blog long enough probably can tell, this restlessness and dissatisfaction sweeps in and out of my life--self preservation, I guess. Because at the core, I'm essentially a selfish person. Don't ever let these little blips of conscience make you think otherwise.

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You're a little hard on yourself, no? Like you, I'm no self-starter, but I am a really hard worker. In corporate terminology, I am a team player. You need all sorts to make an organization work. Take heart! You need to find your niche in this whole business of volunteering and when you do, there's no stopping you! 

from Hsin

7/10/2005 12:40:00 AM  

*hug* I will come back later and talk more. But for now, a hug. :-)

7/10/2005 06:29:00 AM  

I know exactly how you feel. For work I put together this online mapping thing to make thing more efficient etc.. And my boss just let it fizzle no-one used it etc... Not only was it completely rejected but he had paid for it and still rejected it. Being the arrogant person that I am I just decided to label him as lacking vision as opposed to the work being bad or uneeded... I think the message board is a great idea, the other volunteers just lack vision...  

from Bert

7/12/2005 07:39:00 AM  

I agree with Hsin - you're being very hard on yourself. Over the years I've been involved as a volunteer in many organizaions. Sometimes it's worked well - there was synergy. Other times, it just didn't work - nothing to do with the cause, or with my abilities (or perceived lack of any) - just simply that the mix wasn't there.

Don't give up. I hardly know you, yet whenever I've asked for help with my blog, you've been there. Your generosity of spirit comes out loud and clear. You will find your special place, you will do amazing things and you will feel great. Just give yourself some time. 

from Ruth

7/12/2005 12:21:00 PM  

Actually, the one above is from me.

7/12/2005 12:23:00 PM  

Rachel, one thing that nobody else has said yet... maybe this thing just needs a little time to develop a life of its own. (You know, like cheese! :-) My Japan stereotype tells me that if it's cool and technological it's bound to catch on sometime. Maybe I am misinformed, but I think you have made a good thing here, and even if it's not an overnight cyber-Grand Central Station, there is still the possibility that it could become really helpful to a small or large group of other volunteers. Maybe if you could get just a couple of people excited about it...
And I hope this doesn't let all of the volunteering wind out of your sails. Keep trucking. People *do* need you and your brain! And you are making a difference, or at least planting a seed that could blossom into a big difference later on.

7/13/2005 08:17:00 PM  

Hi everyone!

Hsin-li, unfortunately, I really don't think I *have* a niche...unless NPOs suddenly develop a desperate need for lousy but passionate bakers.

Bert, what a nice surprise! Thank you, your comment did soothe the part of me that was feeling unappreciated and admittedly a teeny bit pissed. I'm sorry you went through a similar experience--I bet whatever you did required a lot more work than my little message board.

Hi Ruth, your comment actually inspired me to consider other options. You're right that just because things aren't working out at this organization doesn't mean I should give up on volunteering altogether. I will take your words to heart and try to be patient. But, darn it, I want to help somebody *now* [childish foot stomp]!

Jessica, thank you for the e-hug. And you're right, I did realize this thing may just need time to...to age like cheese. But I can't use it as a shield. I don't have anything else to offer at Oxfam, and that's that. But I promise not to give up. Just need to find a new place to plant seeds.  

from Rachel

7/13/2005 11:50:00 PM  

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