I dragged my butt over to the school to set up for Staff Appreciation Week.? ?How come it?s always the same people who volunteer for these things?? I muttered to myself, a bit resentfully.? My children?s school has over 600 students, and yet it appears that it is the same small group of parents?volunteering for most school events.??At times, when my life is crazy busy and I am leaving my family ONCE AGAIN to head out to volunteer, I wonder what I am doing spending?MY time to serve the needs of others.
Then, I walk in the front door of school.? It?s early in the morning, and the hallways are?already ?abuzz? with kids and teachers getting ready to begin their day.??The first person I see is our Principal.? ?Good Morning? she says.? ?Good Morning to you? I say back.? She is dressed in a fabulous red leather blazer and looks refreshed and cheerful.? I realize how much I appreciate her; not, of course, for how she dresses, but for the kind of engaged and energized person that she is.
?Thanks for all the treats? she says.? I smile and say something like ?you are so welcome; you deserve to be treated?.? I can?t help but smile inside and out as she genuinely smiles at me in that moment.
I head into the staff room.? There are a few staff members assembled and I greet them as I head to our ?treat table? (a table of cookies, cakes, cupcakes, candies, squares, and other?yummy things baked by caring parents).? ?Good morning? I say to them as I pass.? ?Good morning? they respond, and add ?thank you so much for all the great treats, we really appreciate them?.? ?You are so welcome? I say; feeling it even more than the last time, when?I said it to the Principal.
I continue preparing the table of treats; I see a number of teachers coming in to?fill a plate with some treats to take back to their class.? ?Thank you? is a regular comment in my direction.? ?You are welcome??is my response.? Each ?thank you? elevates my energy.? Each ?you?re welcome? from me elevates my energy also.???What is happening?? I wonder.? I feel really energized!
I?returned to the school a?couple of more times that day; to clean?crumbs off the ?treat table? and to re-stock it to look inviting to?school staff.? Each time?I returned, I was bombarded with appreciation from the staff (who,?we were?appreciating with all the treats!)? I suddenly realized?it is a ?gift? to volunteer.
Martin Seligman, the ?father? of Positive Psychology, speaks and writes about the connection between happiness and meaning; doing things that are not about self-interest but about the greater good.? I think that?s what happened during Staff Appreciation Week for me.??I?certainly had?considered this reality as I learned about, and became certified in,?Emotional Intelligence ; yet there was nothing that could match the power of a ?real? experience.
So, the next time you find yourself muttering and wondering why you are doing something (that you know is good for others, yet you are feeling personally drained and maybe even a little self-centred); pay attention!? I?ll bet you?will discover that the biggest payoff to volunteering is to the payoff to YOU.
?Meaning? is indeed a personal experience?and the best way to experience ?meaning? is not in serving yourself, but in serving others.? I think that is a paradox ?in? action!!
What do you think?