Friday, April 22, 2011

Why I Volunteer

(A meeting room somewhere in the Edina Community Center)

“Hello. My name is Chris Deets and I am a school volunteer-a-holic.”

“Hi Chris,” comes the tired welcome from the group.

“It all began four years ago when a well-meaning but very twisted friend asked me to work the popcorn stand at my daughter’s school carnival.  The next year I was in charge of communications for the carnival.  The year after that I was co-chair of the carnival, and this year I’ve led the gift-wrap fundraiser, the carnival, the adults-only gala, the recycling committee…”

At that point I wake up in a cold sweat, heart racing, and look around to see if I really am in a room of mostly moms, all of us with dark circles under crazed eyes, kicked out of our homes by our families for negligence.

In our over-extended, hyper-fast, bright-lights big-city world, why does anyone volunteer precious time at an elementary school? And when you start, how do you stop?

I googled “why do so many people volunteer at their schools” and received articles like this one, and this particularly bitter one from an L.A. mom.  (Then there’s this one that will probably make our district administrators wake up in their own cold sweats.)

There are some obvious reasons for why many of us volunteer at our schools: it’s human nature to give; our schools need everything they can get; many of us can’t say no to anything—least all a school staff member.

For me, however, volunteering at Normandale is about the same thing my entire life has been about for the past nine years: my kids.

Volunteering at school lets me see my
daughter's second home: her locker.
I volunteer because it’s one way I can be in my kids’ lives.  I like my son and daughter.  Not just as kids—but as people.  I like who they are. We have fun together.  They are my friends.  I am their parent, but I am also their friend.  (And yes, contrary to what a blogger says here you really can be both.) And so, since over three-quarters of my kids’ lives is spent doing two things—sleeping and being at school—if I want to be with them, I need to somehow be at their school with them.
Volunteering enables me see what they eat for lunch, who their librarian is, what is on the inside of their lockers. Because I volunteer so much, I now can walk down the halls of Normandale and say hello to my daughter’s friends Ilia and Lindsey. I can high-five my son’s friends Jacob and Noel. I can wish my daughter’s fabulous second-grade teacher, Madame Peralta, a good day.

Because I volunteer and spend so much time at their school, I can do those things. And I feel part of their world. 

I wouldn’t trade it for anything in my world. 

I will miss it so much when they graduate.

And it’s why I volunteer.

Chris Deets

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A Community Gathering of Stories about Edina Public Schools