Volunteering Kicks Ass. So Why Don’t More People Do It?

Making sno cones is an absolutely splat-tastic disaster. A cotton candy machine can literally swallow you in a web of floating sugar. The cafeteria tables will never fold down the way they were when you opened them.

There’s a sink in the band room, and a freezer on its last legs in there, too. The storage room will always look like a bomb detonated in it, even if someone just organized it. And, you will always have leftover T-shirts. Always.

These are the absolute truths I’ve gained from being a part of my kids’ PTSO – the parent group that helps raise money for the school, in ways that used to simply include parties and teacher gifts, but increasingly is needed to purchase new technology for the school or professional development training for teachers.

Times are a changing.

One thing that hasn’t changed is the upside to being involved. I experienced it just the other day, at the grocery store.

“Excuse me, ma’am?” I heard.

And I turned. And I smiled. And I wanted to drop everything I had to give an immediate hug to the woman who helped me the first year I was involved – the year the entire PTSO board imploded and this chick looking to just take notes at meetings (me) was thrust into the president’s chair. Because no one else would do it.

Except this woman. She raised her hand, not knowing me at all, and said she’d be my co-pilot for her daughter’s final year at the school.

She saved my ass.

And at the grocery, we were able to laugh at how ridiculous we were with walkie-talkies at a spring carnival one year, trying to call to each other to find one another when we were STANDING RIGHT NEXT TO EACH OTHER. That’s how hairy spring carnivals can get (see reference to cotton candy).

I’m pretty sure that we would have never crossed paths had she not raised her hand to help. And she’s such an incredible person. I wouldn’t have crossed paths with a lot of people had I not been involved with PTSO, people I consider friends. Close friends. Friends who have seen me cry, swear, laugh by ass off, sweat, smile and keep going through total exhaustion. Life wouldn’t be the same without them.

And the people who know this, know it.

That woman who raised her hand? She was in, she said. I just couldn’t tell her husband she had an official position, because she was already overcommitted.  I never told him.  Hope he doesn’t read this.

But that’s another truth to PTSO – everyone is overcommitted. Everyone.

We are all parents. To kids in school, which means they have homework and projects and need lunchboxes packed and sometimes go to afterschool activities and they need a certain shirt THAT DAY OR THEY WILL DIE sometimes. Many of us have full-time jobs, or other babies at home. Some of us also volunteer at churches or the animal shelter or as a coach for our kids.

We’re all overcommitted. And that makes PTSO some kind of hustle. On top of life, and jobs, and families, PTSO members carve out time they don’t have to solicit donations, count cash boxes and verify checks, pull events out of their butts (seriously), scavenge for supplies, brainstorm plans and then stick around to clean it all up, and absorb any criticism that comes along the way.

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The worst part of PTSO? Worse than the criticism? Begging for help. After all of everything – begging for help is the big grind. Events have their payoff once they’re successfully pulled off and no one pukes or gets electrocuted or rolls off campus in one of those hamster ball thingys.

Our current president is looking for people to step up now for next year. Because the need is desperate. I was voted in as a board member last spring even though I didn’t run and couldn’t even attend the meeting when people voted. Picture that.

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Fall Festival — pulled off — during all kinds of personal chaos.

Many of us have been on this ride already for years. And it is SO rewarding and messy and stressful sometimes and creative and fun. Designing a color run?  So so fun. Organizing a haunted house? Amazing. Forming lasting relationships with other parents, teachers, the front office staff and the beloved school nurse? Beyond incredible and totally unexpected.

I didn’t see that going in. The payoff. I just saw a chance to help in my little way, which ended up being a bigger-than-I-expected way. But life is like that. You don’t know what’s around the next corner.

Raise your hand. Help. Especially if someone asks. Because begging is a grind. Pulling off amazing carnivals and fun runs are not. I promise.

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The finish line for the color run. Or a colorful Chinese dragon-looking thing.