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overloaded truckYes, I can blame getting older or I can blame having too much in my head or I can blame Earth’s shifting magnetic poles. But it doesn’t matter because I have to face the reality. I can’t remember every name, every conversation and frankly, every thing I was supposed to check up on. Gobs of information filter in and then just fall out. Sometimes I feel like an old junk wagon rolling down the road, stuff flying off the top and into the street because it was never properly tied down.
That’s the nature of volunteer management to me. We are like trucks and we have so much piled in the beds that no matter how we rearrange and organize, we can’t ever quite get it all sorted out unless we stay in our garages. I know when I leave my desk, I have people stop me everywhere to ask a question, tell me an important tidbit, invite me to a meeting, request a favor, pass on a message and so on. When you forget why you left your desk two minutes after leaving it, that’s volunteer management.
But stubborn pride tells me on many occasion not to let on that I did not remember the fact that you asked me to check on your name badge yesterday or that you introduced me to your grandchild last year when she was visiting. “My, how she’s grown!” And changed a whole bunch, I might add.
So, here’s a conversation I had recently with a volunteer I haven’t seen for two years.
“Hi Rita, er, Freda! So nice to see you again! We missed you. Welcome back, its been what, four, no two, yes, right, two years already. My it seems longer! How’s your son, George, oh…, right, Craig and his family? Really, that’s great! And your granddaughter… no grandson, is he good? Doing well in school… no right he’s only three, wow, sure, and your husband Sidney? Oh, Rod, right, how’s Rod? Excellent. Are you feeling better… no wait, no you were not sick, right, you moved, yes, I remember now, was it cold in Canada …no, right, Bermuda. Not cold there, huh, ha ha! Well, we have your job visiting nursing home patients… what’s that, no you never did that right! But you wanted to… no, you wanted to do office work. Well we have many jobs here for you and would love for you to come back. Are you still living on the river…or, yes, the golf course, right, it’s River Crest, no, right Spruce View, nice place, I’ve always loved their clubhouse, they have the restaurant where you cook your own steaks, no, no it’s a breakfast place, right, love it. Well, miss you, you’ve always been a great volunteer and would love you back!”
Yes, I can’t admit I don’t remember. I do, however remember running into a volunteer one time in the hall when I ventured from my desk and she asked me, “So, did you find anything out regarding our conversation last week?”
I remember staring at her as if she had landed from Neptune. My brain froze. I thought, did we have a conversation about something? Was I in it? I know that I know you because your face is very familiar, but if my life hung in the balance, I have NO idea what we talked about. So pride of course stepped in and I hedged. “Well, now, I’m glad you brought that up, I was just thinking about it. As a matter of fact, I thought about it a lot and was wondering if you thought more about it too. Uh huh, yes, well, since we’ve both been thinking about it, tell me your thoughts on it now.”
Ok, I got really lucky and her response jogged my memory, or should I say reached into the bed of the truck and pulled out the item underneath the pile. Of course I hadn’t done anything about what we had talked about in the hallway last week. I had forgotten 30 minutes later.
I can carry a notepad or a smart phone and most of the time I write on my hand. I have post its on my desk, two calendars, and multiple pads and binders of projects in varying stages of design.
I think of the adage, if we could put a man on the moon…, but that’s not it. If we could design a truck with a huge, huge bed and all these little gnomes inside who would organize things as we drove down the road, then yes, I could get a handle on remembering things.
Until then, I’ll sneak a peek at your name tag or ask a co-worker to discreetly go up and ask who you are and report back, or cough as I say your name, or hide behind the laxatives at the drugstore to avoid the embarrassment of not knowing you.
Or maybe I’ll just have to admit I can’t remember. Nah.