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Ivan's Musings

A Poetry of Volunteering?

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I began work as a Coordinator of Volunteers in 1964. A year later I started writing poetry and haven't been able to stop since. I only hope this is not another occupational hazard in a profession already well supplied. Still, it's true that poetry can say some things hard to express in sober declarative text, as demonstrated by the wonderful lyrics to "The Volunteer Song" by Paul Horrisberger, an outstanding volunteer coordinator and musician, which I share below.

The Volunteer Song
by Paul Horrisberger and Dick Kimmel, © 1985
Reprinted with permission.

Listen to this song performed at:

http://academic.regis.edu/
volunteer/ivan/sect05/
sect05b.htm#VolunteerSong

Scroll down to click on the audio. "Side A" is folksongy; "Side B" is doo-wop.

To purchase an audiotape of "The Volunteer Song" contact:

Volunteer Center of the YMCA
1401 S. Riverfront Dr.
Mankato, MN 56001
507/345-9812
Fax: 387-2522
e-mail :volunteer@hickorytech.net
www.volunteercenterymca.org

Get involved in your community,
Help to make a better way…
The pay is great for giving freely,
Solve the problems of today…

Chorus:
Volunteer for your community,
Volunteer it feels fine.
Help create a bright tomorrow.
Give some money or your time.

Volunteers can feed the hungry,
Help the lonely find the way
Volunteers can make the difference,
Solve the problems of today.

Chorus

Give yourself a new beginning
Take a chance and you will find…
Volunteering is like getting,
A brand new state of mind.

Chorus

In any case, given responsibility for a column entitled "Ivan's Musings," I ought to be granted some access to the Muse, though clearly, my access has been less than perfect....

The "Poem in Honor of a New Volunteer" was written recently for the graduation of a class of volunteers whose training lasted almost six months. Their mission is to provide holistic stress relaxation and widespread healing in the community, rather than primarily in an agency setting - also to train others in this "Reiki" process. All this is to be done as volunteers. The poem was simply to try to express the deep gratitude for such people that every Coordinator feels. Also, near the end of the poem I put in a plug for them to take care of themselves at the same time. I was always uncomfortable with martyrs.

Poem in Honor of a New Volunteer

In darkness,
You will be as light;
In sickness
The diminishing of pain.
Always, in the dry desert of uncaring,
You will be the rain.

As you now come to join
A growing line of light and love,
May your gift be to yourself as well, a healing fountain -
See you on the mountain.

"The (nothing) People" was another way of honoring volunteers, this time by way of contrast. Indeed, I've always felt the "opposite" of volunteer, in terms of which volunteers shine even more brightly, is more like a "do-nothing" than a "do-badder."

The (nothing) People

They do not lie;
They just neglect to tell the truth.
They do not take;
They simply cannot bring themselves to give.
They do not steal;
They just never return things.
They will not rock the boat,
But did you ever see them pull an oar?
They'll never pull you down;
They'll only make you pull them up
And let that pull you down.
They do not hurt you;
They merely will not help you.
They do not hate you;
They merely cannot love you.
They will not burn you;
They'll only fiddle while you burn.

They are the nothing people,
The deadweight freeloaders,
The sin-of-omission kids,
The neither-good-nor-bad-
And-therefore-worse.
Because the good, at least, keep busy trying
And the bad try even harder.
Both have that character
That comes from caring, action, and conviction.

So, give me every time a straight-out sinner
Or, carefully, a saint,
My expectations of a nothing person,
Ain't.

"Once Volunteering Was for Dreamers" honors the creative genius of volunteering, reminding us of all the marvelous things that would never happen otherwise. Perhaps volunteers can't be quite such an independent and creative force in the modern world, as they once were, but I reserve the right to be wistful about those great old days, and to warn against unnecessarily departing from them. In any case the idea behind the poem inspired my recent book Making Dream Come True without Money, Might, or Miracles (Energize, 2000), in which it also appears.

Once Volunteering Was for Dreamers

Once, volunteering was for dreamers...
We were, and some still are,
Pioneers in compassionate enterprise.
It was the way we got good things done
Before there were big budgets or bureaucracies.

Once, volunteering was a legacy...
It was inheritance from family, friends, or Faith,
An unselfconscious way of living out basic values.
Volunteering was just the way we were,
A private matter of public consequence.

Once, volunteering was a power...
We didn't react to trends; we CAUSED them.
We didn't supplement staff; we CREATED them.
Politicians didn't use us; we used them.

And we made dreams happen.

Once, volunteering was for dreamers.
And dreams were born there.
May it be so soon again.

If you persist in wanting to see more of my poetry, a collection of about 75 poems has just been posted in my online Archive through Regis University at http://academic.regis.edu/volunteer/ivan/

Now, how about sharing some of your own volunteer poetry?

Comments

The "response" below is not of the same quality but I hope it will show
how much I appreciate Melissa's thoughts, and work, Melissa.

Selecting Leaders for Volunterism (With thanks to Melissa)

Yes, give us most of all
Guardians of Universal spirit;
Let them have skill, but for the most part
Have a special hungering of heart,
More than technique
There is a certain soul we should seek
To move armies of compassion
In the never-ending enterprise of angels.

(For further validation of the above screening criteria, please
consult ten thousand other secret poets in volunteer administration)

Ivan Scheier
Stillpoint

Okay, Ivan--you braved it, so guess I can too!

Garden of The Universal Spirit
A Tribute to Volunteer Administrators

Through those tending the caring spirit--
Souls hungering to grow beyond physical bounds
of bone and skin
to meet a universe of need,
desire for contact and understanding,
where ease from grief,
thirst for knowledge
find their source

So beauty may grow there
by the side of the crumbling and cracked sidewalk
or in the desperate lives of the lonely
or in the well-kept lives of your comfort
or darkest gloom of night we share

Coax them, nurture them, be patient!
and the flowering of volunteer souls in bloom
will grace all our knowing

by Melissa Eystad
World Spirit Consulting
November 1996Okay, Ivan--you braved it, so guess I can too!

Garden of The Universal Spirit
A Tribute to Volunteer Administrators

Through those tending the caring spirit--
Souls hungering to grow beyond physical bounds
of bone and skin
to meet a universe of need,
desire for contact and understanding,
where ease from grief,
thirst for knowledge
find their source

So beauty may grow there
by the side of the crumbling and cracked sidewalk
or in the desperate lives of the lonely
or in the well-kept lives of your comfort
or darkest gloom of night we share

Coax them, nurture them, be patient!
and the flowering of volunteer souls in bloom
will grace all our knowing

Melissa Eystad
World Spirit Consulting
November 1996