Wednesday, December 8, 2010


Are you a doer, a giver, both, or neither?

I can’t remember my first experience as a volunteer, although, during my childhood and throughout college, I was always helpful. But volunteering for a cause - it’s a blur; don’t think I did.

My parents were charitable when I was a child, but probably did not contribute time to a specific organization…well maybe their church. But they were very helpful to others when needed; doing things like painting, cooking, lawn care, car pooling, and child care. Both of them were employed, and for many years, my dad also had a part time job – all while sharing a car and using public transportation. Raising two kids, I doubt they had the energy and resources to volunteer on a regular basis.

I tell a little of their story because sometimes, “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” My brother and I followed their pattern – helpful, but not feeling obligated to do more.

Things changed when I was in my twenties.

Employed as a computer programmer in a corporation, single, and living in a new city, my life was in a rut and I needed something else. I thought of joining the U.S. Reserves, and then realized I was too chicken for that.

“What am I good at? Hmmm…reading. I’ll contact a literacy program and volunteer to tutor adults.”

Unfortunately, after going to meetings and training, the program failed to successfully link me with a student. Some drama probably occurred in my life, and that was that for the tutoring.

More years passed. I couldn’t seem to attach myself to a cause that I was willing to give time to, so I donated blood regularly and passed out envelopes to the neighbors for the heart fund; things like that. But because I was financially successful, I gave and gave and gave.

After marrying and having kids, I volunteered at church in departments involving children…because “I” had kids and felt that “I” should. Once, I volunteered in a children’s church class as the fourth person to come on board. Within a month, the other three women left and I found myself teaching the class. Frustrated, yet somewhat humored, I asked myself, “How did this happen? How did 'I' become the lead teacher!”

Well, I did it for two years. (Thankfully, there was a guide book!) I quit because, while it felt good to give to eager little children, my own children suffered before every class. The preparation and mad rush at home prior to getting to the class made me grouchy. I was stressed. They were stressed.

At another time, I tutored math at my kids’ elementary school a couple years.

Currently, I don’t have a volunteer title. I pitch in when I can.

At one time, I felt guilty. My peers were the room moms, the organizers for the fund raising, held positions with the PTA, worked the concession stands for the boosters, etc. “Why don’t I do these things?” I wondered. A few friends would tell me, “You’ve got three kids! Take care of them and don’t worry about the rest.” But then I’d think, “These other moms have kids, too.”

In conversations with my volunteer extraordinaire friends, I’ve been told:

“People know that I can get it done well and I’m dependable.”

“I was on the school board and I did that selfishly because my kids were in the system. I also volunteered for Sunday school because the teachers didn’t have their hearts into it. I saw a need and I volunteered for it.”

“The Lord blesses you when you put your hand to the plow.”

“I think volunteerism is expected of me and I expect it of others. The schools need a lot of support. If I see other people doing a lot more than I do, I try to step it up,”
she said with a big laugh.

They are the definite DOERS.

Eventually, my guilt dissipated. I realized it’s not about how many kids you have or your available time, it’s your personality.

I still volunteer, but it tends to be one-time events that I am able to enjoy.

Putting myself in a category, I’m a doer and a giver – but lean more towards giving. I’m quick to write the check or send in the store bought cupcakes, and I get just as much satisfaction as the person whose cupcakes are homemade.

Balance is required for most things in life. For example: gift baskets to the needy. Someone has to purchase the items and someone has to pack the items. There is no gift basket without both people.

My feelings on those who don’t volunteer: I don’t judge. There are many kind hearted people in the world who may be giving to others by doing something as simple as being a listening ear.
What are your feelings on the subject?

Ps. Dad passed away years ago, but Mom and brother have given time and energy to various causes since my childhood days; much of it involving children, the sick, and the elderly.


Rebecca S. said...

I was brought up by a volunteering mom. She was a 'doer' because she enjoyed it and because she didn't have the money to be a 'giver' necessarily. I am following in her footsteps. I have, through many experiences, discovered though, what I am best suited to. I don't mind volunteering to help at my kids' schools but I am not an organizer. My energy goes into running an after school catechism program and to my local arts council. I volunteer for these causes because I am passionate about them and feel an active connection through giving my time and skill to those two causes. My mom always says, volunteering should have an element of fun, otherwise it is just drudgery. We should not do it out of guilt but out of a real desire to get involved. You are so right, Anita. It takes all types to run these charitable causes and I am certain your contributions are very much appreciated! So, next time I need a donation for something I know who to call....ha ha.

Tammy @BeatriceBanks said...

I'm a little bit of it all, but none to the extreme. With my first child, I thought I'd jump in there and volunteer at everything I could until I figured out it was more about people wanting to be the star and acquire status. I'm more of a behind the scenes kind of person. The limelight people pick up on that and dump on me. Or did. Until I wised up. Now I decide how, when and where I'll donate my time, etc. Just seems to work better for me that way. Like you said, it's a personality thing. I'd much rather give to an individual than a big entity but I try to do both.
Another thought provoking post Anita! Thanks!

Paul C said...

You express so well here the dynamics of giving. One's upbringing, personality, time, financial resources... reflect on the decisions on how and when to volunteer. One doesn't judge but one volunteers in the manner that is most appropriate given the circumstances. Thoughtful post.

Toyin O. said...

I am a doer and a giver as the Lord leads.

Aubrey said...

Hi Anita! I must admit I'm lacking in the volunteering department. Thanks for your post, it serves as a reminder to me.

yonca said...

Another great post! Anita you know, I always liked to read your writing.
I don't have anyone from my family in US.Aria is one and only kid I had and without help, I tried to take care of him well. It wasn't easy for a first time mom:)I'm thankful for a healthy&happy kid, he is in a good situation in class and we all are ok.
You're right..balance is very important in the life. I was happy if I could help people/friends around me.

Nakamuras on Saipan said...

My parents didn't volunteer much anywhere mostly because they were way too busy with their own lives. Mom usually kept a huge garden which took up a lot of her energy in the spring and summer. We had to help with the planting and weeding, harvesting and canning. Dad was always busy working at his job or working on something at home. During the winters mom was busy in the home too.

I don't ever remember volunteering once as a teen. Us "kids" had a lot of chores to do that kept us busy most of the time.

I learned a lot about volunteers when I became the Emergency Services Director of the Northern Mariana Islands Chapter of the Red Cross! My position was paid- but my life depended upon volunteers! Now I understand how important they really are.

Karen said...

My parents both volunteered, for as long as I can remember -- mostly through the church and boy scouts. My husband and I were the same way when my kids were younger. Scout leaders, church volunteers -- and now that the kids are teens, we volunteer for their sports teams, mostly at the concession stand. It's fun when we can work together on something.

Now that I'm not working, I'd like to find a volunteer job that I can do during the day -- something that involves adults. Just for something different.

Great post, Anita! Thought provoking, as always.

Anonymous said...

Good reminder about gifts—and baskets. And people who have to buy the stuff or pack it or whatever—it takes time and money. There is no real Santa Claus and no free Christmas.

Arlee Bird said...

Thank goodness for the volunteers. Without them a lot of stuff would never get done. I not much of one who volunteers, but I can rarely say no when someone asks me to help.

Tossing It Out

Midlife Mom said...

I love to volunteer and have kind of made it my occupation since I retired. When I was younger and had small children I did the room mother thing but nothing as organized as I do now for the Humane Society. I like to organize so they call me the Event Queen. HA! I do enjoy planning events though and am pretty good at it but some things there I just can't do. I can't let myself get attached to all the animals there as I wouldn't sleep at night wondering if they are happy in their new home. Some days when I am there I go around and talk to each one but some days I just can't. I'd like to bring them all home with me but I can't so I do the next best thing and raise money that is used to keep them warm, feed them, give them the medical care they need and pay the staff that so diligently loves them! I think we all need to 'give back' as we are so blessed in this country but it's a very individual thing. Really enjoyed your post, very thought provoking! :o)

Hilary said...

I was a big doer all through the kids' school years. I was that mom that coordinated and ran all of the fundraisers, designed and printed flyers and newsletters, attended PTA meetings, etc. Then my kids grew up. I'll give to charities when I can now.. it's just not as easy financially as it was with my time. Good question. Good thoughts.

Hilary said...

Oh, and I meant to mention that I got a kick out of how Blogger structured the following partial sentence on one line (at least how it appears to me)...

" I donated blood regularly and passed out .."


Buckeroomama said...

I volunteer for partially selfish reasons --because my children are in the system. It's one way for me to know what's happening in their schools, at Sunday school, and be better able to talk about things that happen there with them when they come home. But I also volunteer because I feel that I could contribute. So it's a win-win situation.

People Who Know Me Would Say: said...

In my opinion, the best and most fulfulling lives are those lived in service....but living in service can be as many things as there are people who live them.

I'm a doer and giver, but in my opinion, there is always room to improve...regardless of who you are and what you give and do.

It's a journey, not a destination. said...

~Balance is a wonderful word~

I can relate to much of what you have shared here.

I am both a giver and a do-er.

At times I have just "done" waaaaay to the point that my family has sacrificed.

Now, I think very carefully about what I commit to. It is hard to do that when you love to serve.

But, ulitimately, finding a good balance is the only way that I can keep sane.

Great post :)

Christmas blessings to you!

Unknown said...


what a good post. I think I'm probably too much of both right no(doer and giver). I have a really hard time saying no. I write a lot of checks and serve on several boards/committees. I am one of those who gets things done. But I'm also raising 5 year old twins and I get stressed out. Sometimes i"m not sure why I said I'd do this or that...I feel like I"m drowning. But my heartstrings get yanked at a lot. It's hard for me to just say no.

My mom volunteered a lot and so I think I learned a lot of that from her.

My dad is in town and we were just talking about this last night. He said he's "not a do-gooder." He does, however, write a lot of checks.....

Abby said...

Ever since I "retired" to be a mom, I've been on the volunteer bandwagon, so I guess I'm a doer. But it's certainly not for altruistic reasons only. I enjoy volunteering because it's a good way to meet and make new friends with similar interests. Plus, there's no worry of being "downsized"!

Joanne said...

I think a lot of it has to do with a person's personality style, their traits and opinions. I've always been more of a giver than a doer, mostly because that's just a more comfortable way of being charitable, for me. Thank goodness the combination of both keep the charitable system going!

SuziCate said...

I used to be a big doer until I wore myself thin. I had specific causes. Now, I still have top of the list causes, but I learned how to say no and don't do nearly as much as I could or should. Right now, I have an elderly friend that I help out by grocery shopping and doing her laundry every week and just spending time with her. I don't consider this a charitable cause but an act of friendship. She is 98, so I don't know how much time I have left with her. I'd like to spend as much time with her and help her as much as I can. Someday, I'm sure I'll get back to volunteering (with limitations).

Kate said...

I don't volunteer at all at the moment - but I've got a plan! I'm going to train to do some of the weekend/night shifts at the Samaritans. Do you have those in the States? I think the training and the work is quite challenging, but I'm a good listener and I think you're right - play to your strengths! Signing up is my New Year's resolution. I also wanted to say thanks so much for stopping by so often on my blog aand leaving uch lovely, caring and supportive comments. Happy Christmas! x

gayle said...

My mom did a lot of volunteering with our church. Sadly I have not done much myself lately. I really should try to do more!
Great post!

Priya Shankar said...

I love this post, because I can completely relate. There is a wide spectrum of thoughts on it. I've gotten very involved in one particular issue- maternal and child health in India. It's specific because I spent a year living there and researching the topic. But I think there is something so rewarding about even doing something nice for someone, helping them cross the street, etc... doesn't have to always be accompanies by pomp and circumstance.

Anyways, just loved this post. I recently wrote one about KIVA loans-- easy for people to contribute to without having to get up and DO

Unknown said...

I enjoyed volunteering as a teen but now that I'm older and working a full time job, it's so difficult to find the time. There are lots of ways to make it happen but I'm just lacking in the inspiration to do it.

Iva Messy said...

ohhhh I totally a mix of both! ;)

Sandra said...

I am not a doer. I just look at people like you in awe and appreciation...I really do appreciate those of you who give of your time to make up for those of us who are highly uncomfortable in any situation requiring more of my time. So thank you!

Unknown said...

I believe there are always opportunities that cross your path to help others. I try to be aware and offer what I can in those moments.

Happy Holidays!
Julie Magers Soulen Photography

Nancy C said...

I find myself becoming more of a volunteer, but truly, TRULY, I say no if it is something that is not a good fit.

For example, I don't do anything involving crafts or cutting or cutsy. I just can't.

Ask me to write or shop or deliver things or paint.walls..I'm your girl.

andrea said...

I volunteer at our church in the guest services dept (seating people, passing the offering plate, etc.). I did the children's dept volunteering for a while because they were desperate. I have helped in the children's dept at most every church we have gone to. I have six kids and they seem to feel I would be good at it. The thing is, though---I'm not! I greatly disliked it and MUCH prefer volunteering in a place where I deal with ADULTS!

Stephanie said...

My Mom was the Queen of Volunteering. She was in charge of all the volunteers at our local hospital and did that job as a volunteer for what seemed like the entire time I was growing up. After she left it became a paid position!! I volunteered every year from Grade 7 or 8, weekly, right through Univerisy. Now, I do what I can. I swear to you life is busier. I think the life of a volunteer ebbs and flows. I think anyone who gives even a moment of their time is appreciated:) At least I hope so!
Happy Holidays to you and yours:)

smartee said...

I Anita..I love when you stop remind me of who I cant wait to visit...Ive given up on my reader ...I try to keep up but when it hits 1000..I just hit delete...and start fresh..I think you know my schedule now...and the little time I have to myself..I try to create...I do miss my blogging life but I still get to it over the weeks...I am a giver...I do at my job so I give to other events and persons...Besides at the school..there was always an overabundance of doers and they liked the spotlight..I did not...I did the PTA thing...class mom and so forth...but always went the distance with my kids and their friends rather than spending time up at the school...I gave in different watching other children for parents who had to work...driving kids to events, carpooling..and also giving quality time by playing, reading talking to and listening to kids..and donating goods, toys and books to others...I still do that at my job and for the community..and I think its just my nature to give like this...

Anonymous said...

I know it is amazing how volunteering situations changes with life. I was also brought up to volunteer. I go to nursing homes once a year and volunteer mainly with special needs children. It is a lot of fun it is just a pity that life is so busy, there is not enough time to do all the volunteering I would have like to have done.

Cathy said...

Hello Anita
Almost bedtime here on so I just popped in to say Marry Christmas and send best wished for the New Year. Lets hope all your dreams come true in 2011.
Like so many of your readers I've always been a volunteering person - too many causes to name here - but will just say the love we give is like no other and those who receive it couldn't do without it
Take care

Cathy said...

I really should proof read what I write - that should be 'on Christmas Eve' and Merry Christmas'
Have a good one

Priya Shankar said...

Just wanted to wish you a Merry Xmas, Anita! I actually wrote a post a few days ago on my bday about giving.. it was inspired by this piece on volunteering. Looking forward to more of your posts!

Sohailah said...

always been a doer. have had to learn how to be "selfish" - which isn't what it actually is, but learning how to say no, and allowing others the opportunity to do it. And if it doesn't get done, then it either didn't really NEED to, or that's just life, and someone else can feel guilty, if they want to.

I remember Paul saying, "Whether through pure motives or impure, what is important is that the Word of God is preached." (TOTAL paraphrase, I'm sure). But - what i've tried to do is NOT let that be motivation for feeling guilty that I'm not always the one "preaching" (in whatever form or fashion).

one other thing: I have a married couple friend, and they have taught 4 year olds Sunday School for almost ten years. The wife is SO sick of it, but wants to do it because she wants to be "in some sort of ministry" with her husband. But, she teaches high schoolers ALL DAY EVERY DAY. He has said, "I don't care if she does it or not. For me, it's my ONLY outlet to give and I LOVE it." Interesting, I think.

Priya Shankar said...

Anita! I just wanted to wish you a very happy new year and thank you so much for your support on my blog! I just started hitting my stride and figuring out what topics I want to write about, and you've been so warm and positive. Can't wait to read more of your posts...and loved the one you wrote about women's roles.