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The best things in life are free

Following My Muse
Robert T. Nanninga
Surf City Times
October 11, 2003


It's time I admit it. After much soul searching I have decided to come clean, and out myself in the spirit of full disclosure. Yes ladies and gentlemen I am a volunteer. Not only am I a volunteer, I am a volunteer junkie. Few things please me more than giving back to the community for the mere sake of giving back. Yeah, so it brings no monetary compensation. That is hardly an issue when rewards are measured in smiles and a job well done.

I must admit I come by it naturally. Both my parents are big on volunteering. Growing up in Vista, Girl Scouts and Bobby Sox were integral in our daily lives, as that's were Sandy and Dale dedicated the majority of their community based efforts. Friends made on the ball field thirty years ago are now family, spending holidays in an ever-expanding tribe now spanning four generations. Volunteers begat volunteers.

In my world, volunteering is really about connecting with others while performing a service better served with time freely given. Yes, this is contrary to the current cultural construct that favors commerce over care, and isolation over inclusion. So what. If it feels good do it, right?

Not a week goes by that there is an opportunity for community members to give back while sharing themselves with their neighbors. An unlike work, volunteers get to chose where they dedicate their energy and education. The arts, youth sports, the environment, historical preservation, civic pride, and senior care, are just a few places were volunteers make a world of difference.

An example: For the last two years I have had the honor of donating uncounted hours to coordinating entertainment for the annual Hansen/Machado Surf Classic. Frustrating at times, annoying at others, and draining to the point of exhaustion, it is nonetheless a joyful challenge based in a shared commitment to the people of Cardiff-by-the Sea. It's also a great excuse for spending the weekend at the beach with friends and family. An added bonus is the chance to host a casual music festival, complete with surf -legends and Halau dancers.

For Encinitas Day, I scored the ultimate volunteering opportunity. Perhaps it is just one of the perks of serving on the Encinitas Parks and Recreation Commission, perhaps it my inherent grooviness, whatever the case I was gifted with a six hour shift running the spin-art booth in the kids fun area. Spin Art is the coolest. I had so much fun I should have paid for the experience.

Watching preschoolers discover their inner artist, and be able to encourage them in the process, is something everyone should experience. The look in a child's eye when she sees the result of squirting paint on a spinning canvas is priceless, to see the look in their parent's eyes, even more so.

Up next for me is Pumpkin Lane, the Fullmoon Poets contribution, at the Downtown Encinitas Safe Trick or Treat Halloween event. Having participated last year, I'm eager to help again this year, as pumpkin bowling is almost as fun as Spin Art.

For those of you who would like to learn more about volunteering opportunities, ask the busiest person you know, they will happily point you in the right direction.

Peace out.

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