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Archive for April, 2013

Shifting communities: Self-assessment in volunteer activities

April 1st, 2013

Ours is a stressful profession. Correctional staff everywhere, quite simply, need to blow off steam. Because of this, many of us have avocations that help us cope with our vocation. Activities outside work help direct energies and recharge drained batteries. Volunteering in non-corrections organizations is a way to distress.

Asking Pete Townshend’s musical question, my wife fixed her grey-green eyes on mine. She queried, “Who are you?” She seemed to know the answer. I detected a knowing amusement in her expression. Still, there was a fleeting flavor of genuine curiosity.

You see, her question was in response to my growing involvement in a local trail group and as a new member of friends of the public library. The communities in which I had previously volunteered had been vocation-based corrections and criminal justice groups. The shift was to two groups which are very local and have specific foci. In effect, she was asking, “Why the change, Joe?”

I attribute the shift to a number of factors. Chief among those was the need to rejuvenate my enthusiasm.

Shifting from the autobiographical mode, I suggest a few questions for the curious, self-assessors. By pondering the following, you might discover interesting patterns about yourself.

1. For which groups do you volunteer?
2. Is there a group that you wish to join but have not due to time and energy constraints?
3. Regarding your extra-curricular activities, is there a passion or is it routine?
4. How do the group’s achievements make you feel?
5. Are you in it for the long haul or to promote a specific project?
6. Do you feel that group dynamics promote success or impede it?
7. Is the group about fun or all business?
8. In general, are you a lone wolf or a gregarious group member?
9. Can you acknowledge strengths in others and cultivate them?
10. Do you prefer to contribute by leading, following or filling in as needed?

I have not completely abandoned my corrections group. My vocational-avocations are still important to me. I gave up a few of the groups for which I held less enthusiasm. Quite simply, I needed to experience a more tangible, home-based set of activities. Thus, the change. Time will tell if I experience additional community shifts.

In the end, it is not quite like in science fiction where some sentient, artificial being suddenly becomes self aware and asks “Who am I?” We are not newly born, but live on a timeline, subject to our own history. All of us change, evolve, regress, and seek new directions. For the sake of self-examination, it behooves us to review our group activities and to ponder our ever-shifting communities. Who are you?

Self Scrutiny