Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Have you hugged your support group leader today?

I want to market a bumper sticker in the homeschooling community that says, "Have you hugged your support group leader today?" Of course, no one would get it except the people that need the hugs and a few others. I do a little random blogging now and then, and I'm always dismayed with the number of times that I run across blogs where people are complaining about their support group. And it's just as bad in real life. Now I'm not saying that members can't have a voice in how things go, or that their opinions aren't worth hearing. It just irks me how divisive and hurtful we can be in a community that should be working together (hmmm, sounds like the church, doesn't it?). As Dr. H. says, "Homeschoolers are certainly not immune to being narrow-minded and petty."

It's hard to be a support group leader. Now that I am out of 4 years of leadership and just a regular Joe in our group, I can say that I am just amazed, truly, at how self-absorbed we can be. Phone calls at all times of the day, irritated members whose emails were not returned promptly, complaints about the cost of every single thing, grumbling about having to put in volunteer hours, reports of a dress-code violation, the never-ending grapevine--to name just a few of the most common plagues of a support group leader.

One thing I've realized and tried to impart to our current leadership team is that some people will always complain. No matter where you are--in a church, in a group, in a business--there will always be someone who likes to complain and who can rally a few people to join her. There are people who will never be happy unless they are in control and doing things exactly their way. But most people I know are happy and appreciate tremendously all the behind-the-scenes work that goes on, although few have any idea of the tremendous amount of mental, physical, and emotional energy that goes into support group leadership.

I have a file on my computer where I keep all the nice emails that I received over the years. I really did receive a lot. There are some really, really kind people out there who made a big difference to me on those days when the grumbling seemed overwhelming. I cannot express how much it meant to me everytime someone took a minute to say to me, "Thank you so much for all you do!" It is a little thing to add the word, "thanks" at the end of an email.

What I'd like to say, if you are a member of a support group, is that next time you feel the urge to pass on some negative information to your leadership or launch into a tirade about so-and-so's outfit: count to ten. Ask yourself: what kind of burden am I placing on this person with my words, and is it really necessary? Remember, before you let a complaint fly, that support group leaders are just homeschooling parents who volunteer their time and energy at tremendous expense of time and energy because, well, they want to help homeschooling families. So swallow your grumbling, and just say, "thanks."

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