What’s your excuse?

People make all kinds of excuses for all kinds of things. Some are valid and some are, let’s say, just made up. “My dog ate my homework,” or “I forgot to set my clock ahead,” are just a couple of excuses that make one think of the fine line between circumstance and withholding the total truth.

I have problems with trying to get out the door without doing one more thing. Pair that with middle age memory, and there are times it will take me 20 minutes to get out the door, despite the fact I am ready to go. “I couldn’t find my keys!”

Maybe you can identify with this. Can you also identify with other things that make excuses fall into our lives: exercising, eating healthy, cleaning clutter, donating items you don’t need, and volunteering? There I said it, that dreaded thing people have layers of excuses for: volunteering your time.

Last fall while helping at a concession stand for a high school football game, the lines were so long that complaints were received. Please know we are working very hard getting your pretzel with nacho cheese and soda.

I was relieved to see a friendly face of an acquaintance in line and when he placed his order, made a disgruntled comment about the wait. I unexpectedly blurted out, “Well, maybe you could volunteer behind the counter and the line would go faster?” I guess I didn’t realize the loudness of my statement or the impact as my co-workers look of “can’t believe you just said that,” made the situation awkward.

He started his reply saying “Well, it’s usually the regular parents, right?”, and he continued to mumble his reason after reason, or actually excuse after excuse.

I have volunteered in this community since 1999, when my oldest child was in kindergarten and it has been mostly centered on schools they have attended. I guess I can be considered one of those “regulars,” mentioned above.

Because of the large impact schools have in our area, the education children receive touches almost everyone in our community. The obligatory field trips, PTA, school carnivals, band trips, classroom helpers, concession stands, and many more activities have all been part of my volunteering. I think working concession stands has become my forte and I’m happy to admit I’m dubbed the “Nacho Cheese & Popcorn Queen.” Yes, I went to college for that, thank you.

My youngest child is now a senior and I am presently volunteering with their Grad Night Alcohol Free/Drug Free Party that is totally a parent-run, volunteer, non-profit event for the senior class. I dislike asking people for money and had never intended to be involved with fundraising because of the lack of overall participation. But I’m committed.

Now, I’m not trying to bully people into volunteering. There are many reading this who work full-time, maybe two or more jobs, going to school, caring for families, or have other situations, that the thought of spending additional time volunteering is just unthinkable.

I’ve worked full-time, part-time, early shift, night shift, and have been one of those who think they can “do it all.” Even though I have not been very successful at that, I truly feel what I’ve contributed through volunteering is not as much as what I’ve taken with me from each and every experience. My children will object and say I’m just doing it to embarrass them, which I still try to do every now and then.

Volunteering in their schools has helped me understand how they learn, what they learn, why they need to show their work, and that I’m not your person to help with complex math. It’s allowed me to gain insight into their thinking, not just from my children, but their peers and beyond. And not just in kindergarten, but even in their senior year of high school.

Getting involved has also allowed me to see the reality of problems teens face today and not just hear about it on the news or read it in the paper. It has shown me problems educators face from early learning to life beyond high school. Sure, it’s not pretty. However, there are actually some small solutions I have been able to offer. I am thinking if more people became involved with the schools in this community, what solutions could these new volunteers bring? Wow. Not just the “regular’ parents, but residents from all backgrounds, diversity, and experience this community has to offer.

Excuses are like an onion, you can keep peeling layers until your eyes start to burn. After 16 years of volunteering, the invaluable things I’ve learned, the laughs I’ll never forget, and new lifelong friends I’ve made are priceless. And I hope my efforts have made a difference. I hope others will step up, a little or a lot.

Volunteering is truly good for the mind and the soul. Even after my youngest graduates in June, maybe I will still volunteer, maybe not. I will have to peel my onion of excuses, but I guarantee the tears will be flowing. I just hope I can find my keys.

Margaret Svilar is a 20 year Camas resident. She is also a blog contributor and proud user of the “find my keys” app.