Volunteering is overrated. I’m beginning to prefer selfishness over altruism.
A year ago, I was asked to serve on the board of our synagogue, a small Conservative congregation. I was completing the term of a man who resigned from the board. I got something out of the few months I served, mostly a greater understanding of how things don’t work, and the fervent drive to increase membership and programming. My term expired in April 2009, but the president asked me to remain. I struggled with my decision to serve again; in the end I relented and agreed to be nominated for another 2-year term. BIG mistake.
Last night’s 3-hour board meeting left me frustrated, unhappy, and dyspeptic. First of all, the synagogue president is inefficient in almost everything. I’m sure his picture appears in the dictionary under the term “wishy-washy”. He’s always late for everything. He never knows the agenda for his meetings. Worst of all, he maintains no control over these board meetings. He allows every old fart on the board to prattle on and on about nothing. The president is a lovely man who knows tons of people — wealthy people — in town, but he’s not a strong leader.
The president has a strong vice-president to support him. That’s good and bad. The vp gets lots of things done, but he’s pedantic and long-winded. No surprise since he’s a retired professor of English. Let me tell you, if I’d had him as a professor in college, I would have changed my major to engineering. The synagogue’s treasurer, usually a sane voice of reason, was absent from last night’s meeting. I missed him terribly. Also absent was a new board member, an attorney whose logic and wisdom are well-respected.
The synagogue secretary — you know, the position who is supposed to be present to take minutes, etc. — “appeared” by speakerphone at last night’s meeting because she’s up north at her summer home … for the next 4 months. She’s been the secretary and doing this for years, but this year she decided it was too hard for her to take minutes by phone. She corraled me into taking minutes for her. It does not make me happy, especially when she routinely natters on about nothing AND complains how we need a “corresponding” secretary because she is a “recording” secretary. Huh? Honey, you’re the secretary; YOU handle the damn correspondence, you retired, dried-up hag.
I can’t believe I have another 21 months of this hell.
On the other hand, I love volunteering for the Snooty School’s annual book fair. I love helping plan the decor and decorating the gym. I love setting out the books. Most of all, I love working at the book fair, helping kids and parents pick good books to read. It is so rewarding to have a kid run up to me during book fair and say, “Mrs. Alto2! Mrs. Alto2! I started reading that book you gave me. I love it!” That makes it all worthwhile.
OK, I’ll amend my opening statement. 98% of volunteering is overrated. 1% is tolerable, and 1% is great.