As seen in The Cambrian
BY CHARMAINE COIMBRA
Special to The Cambrian
January 27, 2016
You are four weeks into your New Year’s resolutions list. Today, you review The Cambrian page that publishes volunteer opportunities. This is the year that you give your precious time to help make our world a better place. Applause!
By March, you admit that the usual fail-suspects on your aging resolutions list have now gone the way of the dinosaur. So you sign up for an action committee with a nonprofit. Glory fills your bones as you eagerly await beginning a new volunteer service.
A few months and committee meetings later, you discover that the committee leader is impossible to work with. You can’t please the leader; you are under constant critique from the leader who seems to delight in admonishing your suggestions. Defeated and depleted, your volunteer-enthusiasm is sucked out of you like a Hoover super, megapower vacuum.
You are so disheartened, you refuse to even read this column about volunteerism.
I’ve been there. When I moved out of state in 1988 for a new beginning, the president of a prestigious nonprofit read something I had written for the local newspaper about community newsletters. He was a retired newspaper man and immediately recognized our kinship. He walked into the bookstore I had recently purchased and operated, and invited me to take over the newsletter for his nonprofit. Of course, I said yes.
The nonprofit’s mission was high-minded, with the goal to bring an art form to underserved children in that community. I was honored to serve, and did so for about a year. When the new president took over, a woman married to an influential corporate CEO, I became the volunteer described in my earlier paragraph. There was nothing I could do that pleased her. It seemed like she made an effort to demean my work and question my skills (with earlier honors that awarded my newsletters back home).
The day she walked into my business, with my newsletter draft in hand, positioned herself at my sales counter and proceeded to slice up my draft with her red pen and used exclamation points like an army of swords, and then said, “Please, Dear, learn how to write,” I resigned the next day. Believe me, a polite resignation was a far better choice than the first retribution that came to mind.
Nevertheless, my passion to bring any form of art to the underserved children remained. I took direct action. I contacted some of the teachers who frequented my bookstore and asked their advice to meet the needs of these kids. The holidays were near, and I found a way that I could help the kids: art supplies, backpacks, and books. My business anonymously donated the supplies — several times.
The point of this story is that the nonprofit’s leadership let me down. But I discovered that while the nonprofit could serve champagne at its lunches without me, I could still serve my community.
We might not always find a perfect mix with our charitable hearts and a particular charity. It’s my observation that those challenging persons at the helm eventually go away, and a more kindly replacement assumes leadership. And, frankly, for some of us, we can better navigate a community’s needs without alignment to a named charity.
It’s fine to resign from a nonprofit that doesn’t quite fit. There are plenty of others waiting for your creativity, generosity and kind heart. And if you are like me, you scribed your resolutions with a pencil with a giant eraser because sometimes life requires ample erasers that help us edit our way through life and the way we give.
Cambria resident Charmaine Coimbra is a journalist, blogger and volunteer coordinator. Her monthly column is special to The Cambrian.