May 2000 Volume 22 Number 2
I'm helping the first grade handwork teacher teach knitting. I know nothing about knitting and yet I said, "Yes." I optimistically felt that I could keep the necessary step ahead of first graders, and in general, that's true. We rhyme out "...in through the front door, run around the back, in through the window and out jumps Jack..." to the click of knitting needles, and I'm surprised at the willing hands busily working, counting stitches, absorbed in the task. Another day I help with the third grade, and although I start out with greater confidence in volunteering to help with the painting class, it dims when twenty-five children are wielding paint brushes, sponges, and jars of paint and water. After an hour, I leave with the other parents, all grateful that we chose a career other than teaching, but glad for the experience and the glimpse into the real workings of our children's classes. I also volunteered to join a group of eight paper conservators who meet annually to brain-storm, share tips, discuss mistakes or problems. Over the years, a deep trust and confidence has emerged. Again, what began as a professional experience, another obligation, has bloomed into friendships, a truthful exchange of perspectives, and a model for the best of honest exchange in a professional setting.
What has this got to do with WAAC? I said "yes" when asked to run for the Board in the same way I optimistically volunteered to teach knitting. In a similar way, I hoped the other candidates would win the election and had a faint feeling when the news was otherwise. What I realized about the school situation, has been true for WAAC as well. The parents who do all the volunteering are always "in the know." They are the seasoned eyes and ears that the other parents call to learn what is really happening in the class, or with a teacher or program. They simply know by virtue of showing up again and again with no special skills but a willingness to try whatever is presented.
WAAC is a completely volunteer organization; people who agreed to take on what-ever tasks are presented by the membership. The positive side of this activity is working with wonderful conservators whom I would never have gotten to know at any depth if we weren't struggling to solve problems together. As last year and this year progress, the heartfelt connections far outweigh any sense of work or duty. It has started me thinking that the volunteer activities of my life are filled with a vitality and generosity that is extremely satisfying.
I encourage you to find a volunteer niche and explore the experience for yourself. Possibilities exist within WAAC right now. We are currently gearing up for another round of elections and will be soliciting names for the slate of officers. We are also planning next year's annual meeting. I have never planned a meeting before, just as I have never knitted. But I do know that there are many talented conservators with projects, insights, and perspectives to share. Grab onto your pioneering spirit and step forward. Volunteer to tell the membership how you think about your work, your projects, the (conservation) things that keep you up at night, what still excites you about being a conservator.
So, volunteer somewhere and see what you think. If you can do so for WAAC, great. If not, find another place. The needs are everywhere, and the gift is truly to yourself.