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mulliganIf a Mulligan is a “freebie”, then Phil is my Mulligan volunteer. All right, I actually have more than one, so don’t tell anyone. I keep Phil on the active volunteer list even though he hasn’t done any volunteering for ten years. Yeah, he’s active only in my mind. Why do I hold on to him?
Well, let me tell you about Phil. I have known Phil now for oh, about 17 years. He came to volunteer when I was just an idealistic blob of volunteer coordinator tissue to be molded by good old-fashioned experience and opinionated volunteers. I was hopeful, scared and curious all at the same time. But I digress.
When I first met Phil, he was an old pro at volunteering. A retired executive, Phil had smarts, energy and that electric smile. I leaned on Phil a bunch. He took difficult cases. He made me laugh and learn. He once drove 30 miles to bail me out on an assignment. I never, once, heard a negative breath come out of that man. Inspirational? I’ll put him up against Gandhi in the Inspiration Olympics. Caring? Let him get in the Care ring with Mother Teresa, cause she better look out for his right hook. Willing? Well, you get the idea.
Phil has been getting older. He’s had to pare down his volunteering activities to about seven. No kidding, that’s how much he does. And, as he weighs what he can do, it all boils down to convenience. At his age, that’s a huge consideration. So, the fact that he can’t really help us out anymore is no reflection on our mission or treatment of him. This, I understand.
But let me tell you the real reason I keep him on the active list. Phil takes in homeless people. Yep, takes him into his home to live. Homeless vets, homeless families, he quietly takes them in to let them get back on their feet. His friends (and even some of our volunteers) have warned him that he could be inviting trouble, but Phil just shrugs. “Someone has to help.”
How do you measure a man like that? I’m always astounded at how Phil lives his life. He’s not going to be featured on any news show. He wouldn’t want it anyway. He’s not going to be elected Mayor of his town. He’d hate that. He lives his life by serving. I was just lucky to have him cross my path for a while. He’ll always be “active” to me.
I think we all need our Mulligan volunteers. In my organization, we have emeritus volunteers. These are volunteers who can’t help anymore, but they are invited to every function we have. They’ve earned it. Phil earned it the first week he volunteered. I think of so many of them, who give their all and when they can’t anymore, have to bow out. For the sake of my own soul, I cannot let them fade away. They love to teach others, speak to orientations, mentor newbies, write policy and mainly just chat. Although the chatting part takes a lot of precious time, after a conversation with one of them, I always end up feeling like I’m home. And because I’ve been doing this so long, I fear that no one else will remember. I sense these valuable volunteers slipping away like forgotten stories never written down.
I think of all the phone calls I need to make and it’s overwhelming. But I have to find the time and energy. If Phil can open his home to homeless strangers, I can certainly open my heart to emeritus volunteers. They are a as much a part of volunteering as the fresh face. I can’t let them feel anything but honored and never forgotten.
And though I won’t get any productivity out of the time spent reconnecting with emeritus volunteers, I know it is the right thing to do. And how much of our jobs is about doing the right thing?
I think I’ll start with Phil.