I’m at a point in life when I’m finally starting to feel limitations to what I can do. I think I got to age 40 before I realized there were some things I couldn’t do, and until now before aging made much of an impact affecting things I wanted to do. There are situations that I really can’t feel, but which I’m being I have to pay attention if I want to hang around for a while.
Accepting this reality of no longer doing some things, and with the change in national leadership, I find myself wondering what impact will be felt on volunteerism over the next four years? In past years I gave away a lot of time and effort to causes I felt strongly about. Now that I may not be able to continue that lifelong practice I wonder about the state of volunteerism in the nation. In my case it’s a physical thing. But ideological reasons are other causes for people to engage or disengage in volunteerism.
A great many things-events-organization function because of volunteers, or they function better because of volunteers. Some would clearly cease to exist if it weren’t for good hearted people who give of themselves for the benefit of others. But the message I hear coming out of Washington is a lot more miserly and begrudging than anything I have heard in a long time — and lies often told are easier to believe than truths seldom spoken.
With a billionaire President and a cabinet full of billionaire and millionaire Secretaries, with executive orders coming down the pike clearly aimed at opening the road for Big Business at the expense of the lesser privileged — I wonder what effect that will have on the millions of average folks who have always given freely of their time and energy and $$$?
One of the web pages that has not been stifled by the new administration is Volunteer.gov. For the past few months I haven’t been checking it as regularly as I had in the past.With our RV up for sale and us settling into S. Texas at least for a half-year basis (we have yet to figure out what our ultimate goal is down here) the idea of camp hosting and such other gigs are out of the question.
Still, I wonder how the new administration will affect volunteers?
There is a group of people who will behave the same way they always have just because they are living on the fringe of society and they need a relatively ‘free’ place to live. More than a few RV’ers rely upon a volunteer gig or workamping to make ends meet. For a few hours a week they can get along on a lot less money.
Then there are the rest of us who volunteered just for the fun of it. By taking ourselves out of the RV-volunteer pool we won’t know whether pre-requisites for acceptance will change. There seems to be a big push for everyone to speak out of the same side of their mouth — I have no idea whether agencies will screen their volunteers any more carefully. When I was volunteer coordinator at the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area it was hard to keep all the positions filled. Tightening requirements based on views would have made keeping the place staffed impossible. But that’s not my worry now.
There ARE some volunteer gigs that offer hard shelter for volunteers — not many — but some. Perhaps some day we might try one of those. MORE likely for us is that we’ll look around the local area — whether here or in Wisconsin we have to see how that all plays out.
But the biggest question in my mind is how people will respond to a longterm onslaught against their better judgment. Right now I still hear angry voices. I hear outrage. Heck — even among Trump supporters I don’t hear much favorable comment — they’re all keeping their heads pretty low. At least the ones I know. What I’m not hearing is optimism, and gung-ho, and hoo-rah. People are wondering and worried and preoccupied by their own situation — and that doesn’t bode well for how much they will think about the needs of others, or how they can help someone else.
I used this example not too long ago but I’m going to mention it again. I grew up in an era of rock-n-roll (50’s & 60’s) and so-called “bubble gum” music (’67-’72). The lyrics were light and airy, the tunes were light and airy — the reason is that the attitude in the country at the time was…. duh… relatively light and airy. The Cold War was pretty much over — it’s variously dated but the Cuban Missile Crisis was in 1962 and things began cooling off after that and by 1970 life was looking a lot more optimistic. Music was a sign of the times; actually it still is. But my point being that culture reflects current events. My grandparents came over from Poland with a great love of pork and potatoes — because they came from an impoverished part of Poland where what they had was mostly potatoes and a little pork. Kids today favor video games and smartphones because — you guessed it — that’s what they have — it’s not considered too dangerous by many parents to let their kids play outside in the yard.
Everything has unintended consequences. I look at my grand daughter who is getting married in another few months and I wonder if she has any awareness of how much her choice of life-partner is going to affect who she becomes over the next 10, 20, 30 years (obviously I’m optimistic about her chances with Drew — even though lots of couples never see even 10 years together). When I think back to who Peggy and I were 48 years ago it’s scary to realize how much we have influenced each other — not in a bad way, but in that I-never-would-have-thought-it-possible sort of way.
Presidents have their impact on the mood of the country. Life with JFK was very different than life with Richard Nixon. Then too, world affairs have their impact on a president, and a presidency: George Bush (the Senior) would have had a very different presidency were it not for Iraq — the nature of his legacy was completely changed by events one might say that were beyond his control.
I can’t do anything about the guy in the Oval Office. Not as a single citizen. For me, the daily battle becomes one of maintaining my peace and not getting unduly upset — even though I pay attention to what’s going on around me — and continuing to be who I am, and not let the noise around me turn me into someone else.
To me there’s a good reason to control my own feelings. Why should I let someone else live my life? Why should I give someone “free rent” inside my head? How I respond to all of this is all up to me; not someone else; it’s up to me.
I suppose it’s a bit of a challenge to stay aware and willing to act in response to things I do or don’t like — without letting them throw me off balance. I’ve never been good at that. I hear my dad whispering in my ear — “Peter, you’ve got a one track mind.” — and he’s right. But, I work on it a little bit every day. Some days more successfully than others.
I don’t want to change my willingness to help other people, but I can’t deny that part of me wants to shut off and shut down when I see businesses and politicians and people I know lying about anything and everything to save a few bucks here or make a few buck there. It’s ignoble. But when did you last hear anyone in public life called noble?
I don’t know. It’s going to be an interesting few years. I don’t know where government or society in this country is headed — I’m not sure anyone does. But I’m along for the ride however wild or tame it may be.
Thanks for stopping, and check back tomorrow to see where my head has taken me then.