Oh my! I did not expect this at all. This was a complete surprise to me and totally unexpected. Volunteer of the Year. Seriously? I was just trying to support this wonderful family and its work while having a good deal of fun along the way.
Many years ago I attended the LA Ministers Meetings in person and, possibly in response to an announcement requesting assistance, I began to help stack up the chairs at the end of the meetings. I found this to be very enjoyable, although I cannot explain why that should be so. Then one evening I got a phone call from the member of the LA Ministerial Board who was in charge of setting up the chairs for the meeting and he explained he was short of help and asked if I could be available. I thought about this for a bit, after all, it meant getting up extra early to arrive before 8:00 a.m. and I did live a fair distance away. On the other hand, I really did enjoy stacking the chairs at the end of the meeting, but that would only be possible if someone had set out the chairs beforehand. So I agreed and became a regular helper.
Before every meeting the Board members were busy preparing, setting up the chairs of course, but also setting up the stage, placing signs, turning on the AC, setting up the registration table, and more. At a particular time they would all gather for a quick meeting. I was a bit surprised to be welcomed to the circle to participate with them as they called in the Light and then made announcements and checked to see if the setting up was going smoothly. Being included like this made a big, positive impression on me.
More time passed and I did some other volunteering, especially with the Heartfelt Holiday Projects over the years. These events were good and gave me the opportunity to stretch a bit. I liked staying to the end and helping with the cleanup. Finally a job I know how to do! See that trash, put it into the trash bag! I can do this! What a sense of accomplishment. Maybe it doesn’t seem like much, but somebody’s got to do it, and it might as well be me.
Then came the time for me to become a member of the LA Board. Wow, these people, and those folks on the Area Boards, do a lot. I had much to learn: new computer systems and programs for email, reports, and the database; how the paper renewals and documents are filed; how we review applications and lots more. Fortunately there is documentation for each job and lots of people ready to help. Not surprisingly, one of my tasks was to be in charge of setting up the chairs for the monthly meetings.
I have spent two full two year terms as a member of the LA Board (so far) and have been responsible for a number of tasks which has allowed me to begin to see how each of these tasks meshes with the others to accomplish the overall work of the Board. Every July as the new Board members are assuming their new roles, everyone has to chance to select the tasks they will oversee for the next year. The person leaving that task is responsible for teaching the new person how to do the work, showing them all of the little details that may not have been included in the documentation.
You might think that this documentation I speak of was written long ago and handed down to us unchanged. Nope. It gets reviewed and possibly revised every year by the people doing the work and in response to changes in policy. Sometimes the processes get revised simply because someone asks “why are we doing it this way?” Or someone has a better idea of how to accomplish the goal.
Then came the pandemic and lots of processes had to change, and change fast. We could no longer visit PRANA and work with our paper documents. We had to pivot from paper documents to electronic documents quickly. Because I had held so many jobs and knew how they related to one another, I was invited to be part of one group of Board members and Advisors to discuss and work out how we could do our work in this new situation. The entire Board did a great job of figuring out our new procedures. It wasn’t always exactly easy or smooth, as some of you who had challenges submitting your electronic renewal forms can attest. In the middle of this MSIA changed email programs, so we had even more to learn.
I am currently assisting the Board in a role that is known as “Active Advisory.” As the name implies, I attend the Monday meetings and offer advice and help out with the review of ministers’ renewal applications. Every renewal is read by us or the appropriate Area Board and reviewing these renewals is one of my favorite parts of working with the Board. I and others find there are so many inspiring stories among the responses to the “Accomplishments” question and other times we find an opportunity to reach out and minister to one of our family.
Sometimes, because a Board member has to leave the Board either temporarily or permanently, I have been asked to fill in and do a particular task until a replacement can be found and then train that replacement. So I have learned several new-to-me tasks recently. This is like part of “giving back” and saying thanks for all the help that I have received.
I like being part of a team and the Board is a great team of folks who work together, support each other, and who tell jokes and laugh along the way. My experience with those ministers who are part of the various Area Boards is very similar, and I have much respect for them all.
This brings me to the wording on the certificate I received this year which says in part: “Each year, Spirit asked, and each year, regardless of the task, you smiled and said yes.” Actually, when asked I first took a moment to go inside and check to see if I could do this new task. Mainly I was checking to see if I would be available, and when it was clear I would be, I said “yes.” Some of the tasks I said “yes” to I did not know how I do, but I had confidence stemming from the support I have received in the past and knowing that I could read the documentation and ask questions. I also recall people saying that J-R said “the willingness to do, brings the ability to do” and more than once I have taken a deep breath and trusted this. I’m finding that it is indeed accurate.