On finding our volunteer motivations…

(Adapted from our internal newsletter for members.)

herbertia lahue... included apropos to nothing.
herbertia lahue… included apropos of nothing.

CAMN is an incredibly diverse group, with not only a lot of moving organizational parts, but dedicated people who take on many tasks to help run our business. Some of them serve on the board. But many without recognized titles quietly help with organizational tasks like reviewing applications, coordinating classes, and setting up or taking down our meetings and events. While much of this is not the field work or natural interpretation work we love – because who loves a good meeting more than a hike in the woods?? – the work should nonetheless fulfill a personal sense of mission and pride at whatever level we choose to engage. And because no one—not me, not the board, not another member—commands anyone else to do anything, we each serve doing what we can as best we can. When we have exquisite successes, we sometimes may only get modest outside recognition. When we don’t always follow through with certain tasks, we should never beat ourselves up too much. This is first-and-foremost a labor of love and not something we’re chained to.

Personally, I view every hour of service from every member of CAMN as a gift to the program, and find it humbling that I can lead an organization that, with little fanfare or drama or even heaps of gratitude, can achieve thousands of hours of service to our community each year. What I’ve learned from nearly 3 years of CAMN leadership is that volunteer roles and the people who fill them must be allowed wide latitude to fill those roles as they see fit. My expectations beyond basic decent civility toward one another (and some adherence to our codes of conduct and mission) are that people take on exactly what they’re comfortable taking on, and that we all support them as best we can. I know that many of us – myself included – have not for whatever reason been able to follow through with everything we might have intended to do here. Despite all my respect, passion and dedication to this organization, I miss emails here and there, stumble sometimes when I don’t know how to handle a situation, or don’t always follow through the way someone might expect. I can only speak for myself, but I would be surprised if I wasn’t alone in feeling that sometimes. But focussing on the things we’ve somehow missed dismisses all the myriad things we do achieve, and the good work we do.

But if serving in CAMN in all its entirety, from field work to meetings and all the personal interactions in between, doesn’t bring someone a form of happiness, CAMN’s got something that isn’t right. I’d hope in such cases I could work with a member to make it better, facilitate a change. Part of what motivates me in my service with CAMN is knowing so many people work together so successfully with such common purpose.

But I’d also hope the member could take an honest assessment of their expectations for their fellow volunteer members and for the organization as a whole, imperfect and constantly-changing as it is.

Perhaps that applies to many endeavors we engage in… professional work, friendships, romantic relationships, etc.. (Thank you, Sarah!) Forgetting or ignoring why we chose to be in any closer or broader subset of human interaction can lead to disillusionment, disappointment, disagreement. Our participation is challenge-by-choice, and inclusion is a form of privilege, not obligation or blind duty. Finding an appreciation for our own motivations, and making some peace with the infinitely variable nature of the humans around us can be pure gold.