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Community-Builder Burn-out, and why I don't fear it

Submitted by Jason Hartwick on September 26, 2015 - 5:33pm
Why the "little things" mean SO much...

I do a great deal of work in my community, and there are those who ask me "Why do you do so much? You are going to burn yourself out!".  I have no fear of this ever happening, and the biggest reason is the people I meet in my travels/travails, and the conversations involved.

This morning, walking home from dropping 2 of my children off at school, I walked beside another parent.  She (let's call her "Alice") started to tell me the (actually kind of sad) story of her past year: 

-Alice's son ("Steve") was at a different school last year.
-Steve was living with his grandmother, due to Children's Aid involvement.
-Alice had had some personal issues ("I was a 90-pound junkie" were her words).
-Steve has a weight problem, and wears thick-lensed glasses.
-He was bullied A LOT at his old school.

SO, our conversation actually started with her asking how long my children had been at this school. I told her about my stepson, who started there in Grade 2, and is now in Grade 10.  How my second-oldest started there in JK, and is now in Grade 2, and my second-youngest who is now working on his second year there, in SK. I have a bit of experience with this school.  I have been very active since my daughter (the second-oldest) started, and I've helped make some of the programs better, and know almost all the teachers. Alice told me about her son being bullied, and I immediately told her that there was a low probability of that, which she said she had already experienced.It seems her son and her walked into the schoolgrounds the first day, and he was surrounded by children who were actually EXCITED to see someone new starting - something she said would NEVER have happened at his old school. I was able to set her mind completely at ease, because I was able to tell her who to talk to if such a problem arose, and that the teachers - in my own experience - responded quickly and well.

Alice thought perhaps many of her son's problems stemmed from the fact that she had not been too visible at his old school, and since none of the kids knew who she was, and that he was living with her mom, they felt no reason to hesitate in picking on him (which actually makes a lot of sense). I was able to inform her about the next Parent Council meeting, and again set her mind at ease just talking about my own experiences with the teachers and administration and how fantastic they are at working with parents to enhance and increase their desire and ability to be involved with the school.

This whole conversation started with Alice being a little upset that she had been hit in the face with a ball on the second day of school, and ended with her a) asking my name (just never came up) and b) smiling and extolling the virtues of this wonderful school her children have attended for all of a week. 

I have these little moments with parents at the school, and people in my neighbourhood at least once a week, and these seemingly small conservations are what makes a community "happen", what makes a community strong, and how a community can know if something is broken and needs to be fixed, or is strong and should be a rock to build upon. If my small part in the vastness of the phantasmigorical things happening in the wider community this small City is is having these little conversations, I am happy to do it, and proud of it. 

If I do not stay involved, or increase my involvement in community, I will not have the information to help these people out.  How does this affect my burn-out rate? Well, I am a social creature, and if I can't answer these questions, I am going to want to find out how, which is only going to throw me right back into the fray (so to speak), and make it harder for me to do what is in my nature, and THAT would burn me out.  So, I would rather be involved, and have the information at my fingertips - It actually means I won't burn out :)