I am one of those souls that schools, charities, and hospitals love to see coming. I have a condition, which prohibits me from saying no to most requests for help. I have said it before, and it bears repeating, I am pretty sure that I wasn’t born with the ability to say no. The strange thing is it seems most apparent to those who are in need of volunteers. I don’t know whether there is a visible aura that surrounds my being, a blinking sucker sign on my forehead or just the invisible, “Ask me” tattooed on my forehead. I can do about anything but math, which leaves so much more space in the brain for creativity.
Seriously, I really can do a large variety of tasks from apple pies to yard work and most jobs in between. The exceptions in my case are the math related tasks. I stopped being able to help my kids with their math homework by fourth grade. Knowing how to do math, requires an enormous part of gray matter. I have all that awesome space available for a surplus of other cool tasks. Who needs math anyway when you are married to the human calculator?
My volunteering career screamed into high gear when our kids entered elementary school. I began helping in the classroom and graduated to running parish festivals for thousands. At one point, parishioners kept asking if I catered. Eventually I took their queries to heart and put my well-earned volunteer experience to practical use. Not having the NO-gene is a hazardous lifestyle for a caterer. Basically, my slogan was, I could do anything, unless proven otherwise.
In an attempt to illustrate how fanatical I am when it comes to saying yes, I will share one of my more memorable adventures. Good friends of ours had a community bank they were opening and asked if I could cater the shareholder event. They were expecting about four hundred in attendance. Up until that point I had only catered events for about forty. The yes in me popped right out figuring, that which didn’t kill me…well, didn’t kill me.
I prided myself on the fact that I made everything from scratch. Chocolate turtles from start to finish including gold dust on the top, took days. Spending this amount of intense labor on a vast array of desserts and appetizers took its toll on me and the precious time remaining before the event. Did I mention the one thousand sugar cookies I promised for the Grand Opening, two days later?
I asked four friends to help out the day of the event. On that chilly March afternoon, we were outside grilling chicken on a propane grill. Kathy had been at it for over an hour, while we finished up inside. Suddenly, we heard screaming and ran to see what was happening. A slow-motion surreal moment transpired before our eyes. A woman slowly driving by the house had a frightful look on her face and had pulled over to view the impending catastrophe. Kathy, still screaming, was pointing to the propane tank which sputtering fire, had lodged itself under the gas tank of our parked car. We all screamed as we kicked at the tank to remove it. Slowly it rolled down the driveway and tucked itself under the gas tank of another car. More screaming! Visions of our children being orphans danced through my head. My husband had just gotten home from work and came to the rescue, bravely reaching in to turn off the gas before we blew up the whole neighborhood. The woman, who had paused to watch, left after the finale shaking her head.
That incident pretty much aged me ten years and the party hadn’t even started yet.
The occasion God used to finally get my attention in the, you are doing too much department; was when I agreed to do a custom cake for a friend’s daughter. I had an inkling that I should have said no…but not having experience in that department, I agreed. It didn’t seem to matter that I was working full-time as a youth minister, and a mother of five busy teenagers. Forty eggs later, two additional trips to the store at 4 am…I got the message loud and clear.
From that moment, I learned a valuable lesson and began using the “no” word with some degree of conviction. I hold out great hope for the day an immunization is found for my condition. Not so much to completely eradicate it, but to help control my yes impulses. Yes, we women can have a lot on our plates at once, but there is a moment we must ask ourselves, how much of this craziness and exhaustion that I am feeling is self inflicted? I pray you are better than I in knowing when to say yes and share your gifts, and when to say no, and save them for yourself and those you love for your own self-preservation.