Old Diary

Good People

I poke a lot of fun at the bureaucracy that we are dealing with here but I have to give equal time to the good things we find here.  (well not exactly EQUAL time — but at least serious mention)   Once again I have been impressed by the quality of personnel who work here on the Forest.

I know a lot of people who are downright disrespectful of government workers.  But the one thing I have found is that given a chance to prove themselves, most people will surprise you in a positive way.  Not all people — there are some jerks and creeps out there.  There are abusers and molesters and lawless idiots too.  But most people will surprise you in a positive way if you just give them a a chance.

Wednesday was another good reminder of that fact.  It was volunteer meeting day; the first since November.  We’ll be having more of them soon:  one in April, and probably a small one each month through the summer season.  But this was the first in a few months and there were some things to be covered; in fact there were a LOT of things to be covered — enough to make a bunch of sore bottoms by the time we were all done.

After talking over things going on with volunteers, the boss set up a program with personnel from various departments coming in and going over 1.) some of the volunteer gripes and 2.) covering safety issues, and 3.) reviewing policies and procedures that have been controversial.  I was once again impressed by the quality of personnel who work for the Forest Service here.  There was a lot of solid information presented.  The presenters were enthusiastic as only people with a passion for what they do can be.

We learned about more of the intricacies of the collections program — and why the volunteers are asked to do a variety of chores.  We learned about Tsunamis.  We learned about how to be better hosts — the Forest Interpretation specialist (Dave Johnson) gave a particularly interesting presentation on that topic.  And we had two of our three L.E.O.’s in to talk about what they can respond to, what they cannot respond to, how to get in touch with them, and when to go straight to 911.  It was a very good and very informative meeting.

Dave Johnson

That’s Dave down there on the bottom right of the picture

When I think of park or forest interpretation I tend to think of the display boards along a trail or the programs conducted by rangers for children and adults but interpretation is also something that volunteers need.


Interpretation is about more than just programs in the sand and bulletin boards on the side of the road.

Interpretation is how we get to be better volunteers; how we do a better job understanding our campers and welcoming them and our day users; how we defuse touchy situations, keep ourselves safe, and make our visitors feel more at home and empower them to enjoy their time here on the Dunes.  Wednesday was about on-the-job training — though if you asked volunteers present I think you might hear some of them say it was a waste of time.

Of course — what’s a waste of time and what is valuable to you — all depends on your attitude.  And attitude is what Interpretation is all about.

Let me make a brief aside here.  All autumn and winter we have been struggling because of personality disputes between two particular hosts.  They live and work near each other and they have not been able to get along.  Staff have visited them both several times (individually and collectively) to try to work out the personality clash  and until recently we thought the problem was sort of resolved.

Today at our meeting those clashes came back to the fore; one of the volunteers displayed (in front of the entire group of volunteers) why the problem existed — just by being who they were.  Some of the volunteers were offended by the way in which they just could not let go of past experiences.  And an otherwise positive meeting ended on kind of a sour note.

52330000The boss is slow to take disciplinary actions against volunteers.  We love our people;  we can’t function without them.  But the boss’ boss, the one who seems to be the laid back one among the bunch wasn’t so slow.  He stepped up to the plate and took action.  After the Big Boss witnessed the display that offending volunteer got himself fired.  Volunteers aren’t employees;  there are no rules for who can be fired and how hard it is.  An agreement is terminated and that’s that.  It doesn’t happen often;  two events in as many days is extraordinarily unusual but for the sake of the entire volunteer program there are times things like that have to happen.

So, I’ve got another position to fill.  I’m sure it won’t be that hard to fill, but it’s another project on the pile.  And I think the decision was a good one.  The Big Boss definitely sent a message:  respect is required;  it is not optional.  And over the next couple months I’m sure there will be enough opportunities to make that point one-on-one.

But it just goes to show that all the good people on staff are there and behave as they do because they have good bosses, people who care about other people, who care about impressions — knowing that impressions are the only thing we really make on other people.

I’m glad I’m here.  Peg and I are both glad we’re here.  We have quality people to work with; people who are showing US how to be be better people, how to care more about those around us, and those in our care.  We have our days when we are challenged, sure.  But we had those before we retired.  We love most of our challenges because they make us better people.

I thank you for stopping by today.  I want you to hear the good things about the people here, not just the bureaucratic bumbles and the seemingly endless mixups.  I hope you join me tomorrow.  Tomorrow we head off to Springfield to get our credentials.  I’m sure there will be more interesting stories to tell.  Talk to you tomorrow.


4 thoughts on “Good People

    • Linda, I love that expression: “When respect is not optional”!

      I think there are a lot of folks who are not really aware of what respect means, and they do think of it as being optional. And it is not, should not be, will not be in the future. I am so happy that the decision was made. I had recommended that this person be asked to leave a month after starting; after seeing what was going in I could not see the person changing — but when you have been the recipient of that volunteer’s hard work it’s easy to feel a responsibility — perhaps loyalty is a better word — and a hesitation to take action. But it was a good decision. For sure!



  1. Mrs. P says:

    When you have to work in such a tight knit community, it’s really important that unhealthy situations get remedied quickly. Bickering coworkers is like a poison to the whole group…even more so when the group is made up of volunteers who don’t have to be there. Though they may not be directly involved, they are affected by it.

    I hope the Boss learned something from the Boss’ Boss acting quickly to remedy the situation. And, it does set an example to the rest of the volunteers on acceptable behavior.


    • While I’m not a huge fan of working in groups — being a died in the wool sole-entrepreneur type — there are good things about having multiple points of view. Our boss has lived with volunteers (figuratively) for a much longer time than her boss. He is a step or two (in GSA pay grades) ahead of her and I don’t know how much he has had to depend on volunteers. I know that at his last posting he only had 5 volunteers — we have +/- 35.

      Our supervisor is extremely human. We are learning a lot from her. I always thought I had good people skills but she makes me look like a piker by comparison. Her humanity, however, does get in the way of the job from time to time. I have seen it an I know it will always be an issue with her — and if I had to choose I would pick too humane instead of not humane enough.

      All that being said — there are things that need to be nipped in the bud. And poison travels fast — as well as gossip traveling fast. A lot of good comes just from the volunteer grapevine talking about the fact that someone was fired because of drug use, and someone else because of being dis-respectful of other volunteers. These are good lessons to be learned that I don’t have to do ANYTHING about — they take care of themselves. Volunteers talk. Boy do they talk! If I want to test the grapevine I can drop a word at the south end of the Dunes and before I drive the 40 miles to the North the gossip will have preceded me (on most instances)

      I do think that with the group we have here, and with the willingness to consult and take a lot of time making decisions that we have some built in protections on both sides of most subjects. I’m really optimistic.

      I have been so happy with the quality of these people we are lucky enough to work with — and “they”, as a group, continue to delight me.



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