by Barb Mazarakos
We are at the great stage in our life where most of our social activities revolve around our kids. Now if you know me, you may not be sure if I say this with sincerity or that snippet of sarcasm you know and love, but I assure you that most days I mean this. We are blessed to have two happy, active kids but man, are they busy! For my husband and myself-who both spent our teens and twenties involved in our respective schools and churches-jumping in as parent volunteers seemed a natural thing to do. But it is a whole different ball game (pardon the pun during this busy baseball and softball season) when kids AND parents are involved that requires, if I am being totally honest, restraint beyond what I once would have thought I could show.
Those of you who have coached your child’s team or served as a Scout leader or with your school PTA know what I mean. You start out doing it for your child, to spend more time with them or maybe save a team without a coach from being disbanded, meaning your own child can’t play. You get to know the other children and maybe even develop a soft spot for some. Kids can get to you that way with their humor, insight, and quirks that make them beautifully unique. Well, except that one kid. You know the one: he never listens, calls the other kids names, mocks what you say. THAT kid tests your patience. But the parents- THEY are great. They cheer their kids on and pay for their camps and have LOTS of great ideas that could “really help” the way you are already doing things. And they would LOVE to help you, but, you know- they are really just SO busy. If you need more ideas, though- they are your person!
Now I know this sounds snarky, and for good reason- it is! I’m at the tail end of a long string of big volunteer activities and I am TIRED and people are demanding and sometimes when things don’t go exactly as planned they can also be unforgiving. So every day I pray that God leads me to be an example to those I come across with both my actions and my words. Because sometimes that kid who won’t listen is making me crazy and I want to snap at his behavior. Left to my own accord, I do. But when I listen and let God in, He guides my words and actions and I keep my calm and instead re-direct the child who may just be having a bad day. And that parent with all of the un-asked for advice? Instead of telling them they are welcome to volunteer and do it their way if they’d like (I may or may not have done this at some point) I thank them for their input and think on it later to see if it really could benefit our activity.
Most people don’t go through life trying to be difficult; most times, those who are simply may be struggling in some way you may not know. And when you deal with people in a volunteer capacity, especially if it’s in a leadership role, it becomes easy for people to act as if it is your job- yourself included. Sometimes you need to step back and remind yourself of why you got involved with that team/pack/school to begin with and reconnect with the part of you that wanted to help. God will find a way to put you where He needs you, and what better way to show our faith than to love our neighbors as we were commanded wherever that may be? It’s not always going to be easy, but if you start each morning with a little prayer, “Lord, help me to reflect your light to those I meet today” you never know what might happen if you just ask Him to show you the way.