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Sunday, November 07, 2004

The Meaning of Volunteer-ism

From a post in TribeNet concerning Scenic and Work Parties . . .

Why does the new owner need volunteers? Can't he get a business loan or some venture capital together to get the springs operational without using volunteers? Can he get things operation without volunteer work?
Complete thread here


And my response after NG got finished with him . . .


Sometimes you just have to get aboard to protect what you like. I read the previous topic on Announcing the Work Party and some business mumbo-jumbo about project management and tit-for-tat. I think NG has it absolutely right. You get a feeling about a person who goes out of his way to meet the people who share his dreams about revitalizing Scenic Hot Springs. Mike, the new owner, has his complement of lawyers, consultants, experts and professionals as any good businessman should. Yet Mike goes out of his way to ask those who have experienced the special nature of the springs about what to do . . . often at odds with the advice of his consultants.

I remember one conversation we had when Mike was relating about how his lawyer . . . a technically-competent lawyer . . . just did not get what he was trying to accomplish at Scenic. If Mike had never befriended the previous-cadre of Scenic soakers would Mike have gone ahead with his consultants advice for a 'steel-concrete-and plastic monstrosity of a resort? That is what his consultant could not understand . . . why would Mike give up the easy money for the much harder task of giving us something truly beautiful and spiritual. As Mike said . . . he just doesn't get it!

Well, I do . . . and so do many others. Some things in life are just not slated to be the subject of Business Economics 101. I have known Mike for some time now and one thing I do understand is his love for natural hot springs in the Japanese-tradition of rock pool onsens. He is an artist with rock and water and like an artist you sometimes do things differently than in the business world. No doubt that this is, or will be a business. He must recoup his costs somehow and he must be able to pay for caretakers. But within those bounds Mike creates.

That is who Mike is. I met him because of comments I made about behavior at hot springs and we got to talking. Mike has gone out of his way to listen to what others say but I do not ever remember him asking that we volunteer to help out on the small things while major hurtles were being negotiated. I volunteered without any expectation of recompense because I believe in his concept. And if I never get a single special privilege for helping that is perfectly fine by me because I will always know that I helped bring about the re-emergence of Scenic Hot Springs. The more business astute may say that that does not make economic sense but who cares. This is not about business . . . this is about beauty.

That others make disagree and say 'where's my cut?', you were not asked to volunteer by Mike. It went the other direction. We volunteered our services. Those that said, let's OFFER our help stood up and helped. The reward was in pride and personal accomplishment. You have to make the decision on what counts in your life. Much like Mike, this is a hobby to me. Unlike Mike, I do not have to pay the bills to realize my hobby. He could have hired contractors to do the work . . . contractors who couldn't care in the least; or he could have accepted the offers to help out with the grunt work. Mike is not a wool suit, white-shirt type of owner . . . he was right in there with us doing all the dirty grunt work and listening to all the advice we gave him, and that advice is likely to show up in the end-product. If anything is invested at Scenic . . . it is our hearts and souls and there is no place in there for a pocketbook or tally sheet.

Rick (aka banged-up-shins)
. . . after a very long day of backbreaking labor learning how to install water bars across a trail. See, I learned something new today.

6 comments:

  1. Anonymous7:55 AM

    "Why does the new owner need volunteers? Can't he get a business loan or some venture capital together to get the springs operational without using volunteers? Can he get things operation without volunteer work?"

    Those sound like good questions to me... valid questions. Anyone who has ever owned or operated a business can appreciate questions concerning budgets and revenues.

    Why volunteer for something if you don't have a clue if it's going to get off the ground and actually survive? Doesn't it make sense to **at the very least** ask a few questions surrounding the business plan? And if you do decide to ask a few questions, why is this portrayed as some sort of crime???

    Some 90% of all business startups fail. A nonprofit that directly helps people is often served better when it comes to volunteer work, because nonprofits don't have the same failure rate as revenue-based businesses.

    This sounds more like some fragile egos were wounded because they somehow feel its more altruistic to volunteer blindly, without asking any questions... why would that be better than asking questions BEFORE volunteering? If someone has the common sense to teach you to ask questions before volunteering, cheers to that person!

    Work is work is work. Knowing the details of the work doesn't make your volunteer work any LESS worthwhile. Knowing the details doesn't make the work any more or less profound. Knowing the details doesn't mean there's absence of heart. So why all the fuss and bad talk?

    When people make such as fuss and attack people with good questions, it makes the attackers suspect. Their motives become questionable. Perhaps their hearts, which are supposedly in such a good place, aren't in such a good place afterall.

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  2. Volunteer: a person who freely offers to do something; a person who works for an organizations without being paid. Volunteerism: the involvement of volunteer labor, especially in community services.Emphasis mine. Also more definitions herePresent in almost every definition is the, implied at least, assumption that the volunteer has already made some sort or judgement on the value of performing some sort of volunteer activity . . . so yes, in that regard asking appropriate questions is perfectly legitimate. But the questions should be pertinent and directed at the nature of the volunteer work and what the volunteer could expect in return (emotionally, spiritually, good graces of the owner, etc.) . . . not misplaced on the motives, finances and/or business plan of the owner.

    What is missing from the entire TribeNet posting is that the owner never asked for volunteer work . . . only advice from people in the know about Scenic. There was never any tit for tat, you 'scrub my back and I'll scrub yours' to get free labor out of anyone. Therefore, under what business 'good practice' axiom does it become necessary for the owner to divulge financing details or for anyone to go asking the owner those sort of questions? The aspersion that the owner needs volunteer work is out of place and rightly taken as an affront by those who know Mike. Posting those remarks also immediately cast a shadow on the entire thread which was intended to get out the call for volunteers . . . and I suspect was intended to do just that. The owner doesn't need volunteers . . . the volunteers freely offered their services because of their love for Scenic Hot Springs. That some may have done so in the hopes of preferential treatment is irrelevant . . . they still freely offered their services with eyes wide open.

    Right now, tonight in Startup, WA, there is a new restaurant opening that has been much covered in the local news. The human interest story behind this place is the amount time and effort of neighbors coming together and helping get the place open on schedule. I would much imagine that not one of those good neighbors stopped the new owners and asked them rudely . . . jeeze, how come you can't afford to hire the construction workers to do this . . . how come you need volunteers? This was neighbor helping neighbor and like a good neighbor, I am helping Scenic because it is what is needed. Not by the owner, but by those who love or will one day love Scenic Hot Springs.

    The original article posted in TribeNet was a call for those who cherish Scenic to get together and help clean up the place from all the soakers who have trashed this place with their garbage over years of illegal soaking. It was an attempt to repair some of the damage we . . . and possibly you . . . have done to this fragile and beautiful property, and continue to do to this day. It was to be a way to make a statement to the new owner that we care and we want him to go ahead with his project.

    Unfortunately, there is still a faction of users that believe fanatically that they can do as they damn well please . . . even if it is with someone elses' property. This is especially prevalent at Scenic where day in and day out we see people heading up to the springs as if they had every right . . . damn the fact that it is on private property. They are just not going to accept that. That kind of attitude got the place closed down before and it will get the springs closed again unless it is stopped now and stopped decisively. Any business person who tries to take ownership of 'their' springs is immediately suspect.

    As to justifying the need to ask questions because of business failure rates and then to suggest nonprofits in the follow-on sentence as a better plan . . . you seemingly tip your hand in how you would like this to play out. I have seen that same argument numerous times from factions of The Friends and the SPA. They missed their chance to lock up Scenic for themselves and now they are crying over spilt milk. Mike may or may not fail. That is irrelevant. Right now he is the only game in town with any hopes of reopening Scenic Hot Springs to ALL THE PUBLIC and I support that effort. I am not being asked to volunteer nor being enticed to give of my time and therefore I have no rights to ask what Mikes' financial position is. I certainly have the decency not to imply that he is a 'cheap-skate' for allowing us to help out.

    Yes, egos were bruised . . . not by 'good' questions but by a personal attack on the owner, in absentia, who had no part in the discussion. There was nothing good in the questions because the questions were framed upon incorrect assumptions.

    Finally, you finished with:

    When people make such as fuss and attack people with good questions, it makes the attackers suspect. Their motives become questionable. Perhaps their hearts, which are supposedly in such a good place, aren't in such a good place after all.I suppose you would feel that way if you believe the questions were appropriate. Most of the people I have talked to, though, do not believe they were appropriate or in good taste. However, my heart is in a good place whether you choose to accept Robert's or my position. So quit casting our morals and ethics aside with a finishing, personal jab such as ". . . Perhaps their hearts . . . aren't in such a good place after all."

    Respectfully, Rick

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  3. Anonymous10:22 PM

    Hi Rick,

    You wrote: "I certainly have the decency not to imply that he is a 'cheap-skate' for allowing us to help out."

    Mike's not a cheap-skate, by any means. I never once suggested he was. You guys may be smoking crack, but I never once suggested Mike was a bad person, an evil person, or a cheap skate. I think Mike and I would get along just fine, actually.

    I intend to talk to him about my experiences with the odd folk who consider themselves "regulars" at the springs, and let him know about some of the experiences I had with you people -- guys smoking PCP and other hard drugs, fistfights, drunkenness, threats, guys fucking other people's girlfriends, etc.

    You know, having had many long conversations with you guys up at the springs, I can honestly say that you guys are some of the biggest hypocrites I have ever met. You seem to think you are so very special and untouchable because a few hundred complete strangers treated you like a tourist attraction while they got drunk, naked and stoned. You seem to think that every little idea that comes out your heads is God's word.

    I welcome the days when the uneducated animalistic backwoods hillbillies are off-limits to the springs. If Mike has any sense at all, he's not going to let you guys hang out at the springs much when he is trying to make a little business revenue off regular people who are passing through. You guys left a very bad taste in my mouth most of the time. And you still do, it seems.

    Leave the springs alone!!! Mike can do fine without you guys. If he needed your help, he would have asked for it. Find another cause. Go impeach President Bush - now there's something you can brag about that will give you some weight to throw around.

    Go find another springs to hang out at. One that's free, in another state, and where you won't get arrested for assaulted random strangers who happen to disagree with your backwoods ethics and philosophies.

    I'm sick and tired of trying to relax and enjoy a simple hotsprings without a bunch of backward zealots sitting next to me, waiting to pounce on every word I say, to see if I am the "enemy." Give it a rest already.

    Bear was one of the worst ones up there. NG was pretty bad, too. I can't remember the names of the rest of you. When Mike opens the springs again, it will be a sad day if you guys are all hanging out there again. Really. I'm not exaggerating at all.

    Please, find another cause, and go away already.

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  4. Well, I wish I knew who the anonymous poster is.

    You obviously have some issues with what you call the 'regulars' from the past whom you characterize rather vividly as drug addicts, fornicators and hippies. And then you group me in there as well. My friend, you do not even know me nor have we ever met as far as I know, so how do you know what sort of person I am? Would it surprise you that I absolutely agree with you about that sort of behavior that brought about the springs demise in 2001?

    There are many interested parties vieing for influence in the direction Scenic takes . . . yours, Robert, Bare, Crowbar, Dale and many others. Myself included to be fair. And every one of them is entitled to their opinion.

    Rest assured, Mike reads this blog and I won't censure anyone if it contributes to an honest discussion about Scenic, itself. But the personal attacks stop here. They serve no constructive purpose toward Scenics' future.

    Might I suggest we meet and see where we do (or do not) agree? My email address is banged_up_shins@yahoo.com.

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  5. Anonymous7:20 PM

    I appreciate your positive attitude and letting me rant. I feel I speak for a number of people I have shared similar experiences with. I have no idea if this represents the minority or the majority. I do know that over a 10-year period or so the type of people coming up to the springs changed. It went from a very mellow culture, then to a party culture, and then quickly to an aggressive culture after that.

    I (and two other unsuspecting individuals) was given weed laced with PCP by one regular at the springs on one occasion, and he led me to believe it was just a regular smoke. Another time, I ran out of water and some kids gave me some very strong hallucinogenic drink without telling me it was more than just a refreshment. I saw different guys trying to screw other guys' girlfriends, right next to me in the pools. I was physically "attacked" by Bear on one occasion just because I was a little out of line because I was a bit drunk -- I was very harmless but Bear decided he was willing to essentially break some of my body parts over the matter. He's lucky I wasn't carrying a weapon in my pack, because I would have used it on him in self-defense, without hesitation. I've been hassled and even threatened for saying the "wrong" thing to a springs "regular" on occasion, during harmless discussions on various topics. After so much of this, I just stopped going to Scenic. It wasn't fun anymore...

    In the end, I would have preferred that the pools be kept natural and small, without "overseers," so that the culture remained mellow the entire 10 years I visited the springs. Olympic Hot Springs manages to attract a wide variety of individuals still, and I feel this may be attributed to the inability to really get too cushy and comfortable there. Plus, the lack of obvious "regulars" who predominate and actively manage the culture presiding over the springs.

    Anyhow, you know the rest of the story. Sorry if I attacked you Rick. I got carried away. You seem like a real nice guy and I wish you the best in your endeavors.

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  6. Thank you for the best wishes . . . I do appreciate them, though I think we should all pull together and offer the positive wishes for Mike because I know that he does not want the slightest type of activity that you experienced at Scenic in the past. Mike has been through this type of transition when he was brought in to transform Meagher Springs up in BC and I think he did a marvelous job in bringing control up there.

    It's an attitude adjustment and there are a lot of people who are resisting and going to continue to resist change, but it has to be done or Scenic will simply go entirely private and/or the springs, themselves, capped. If that happens, we all lose.

    You mention Olympic Springs but even there exists a 'regular' clique intent on preaching. I've met more than a few especially in the upper pool most coveted by soakers (try to get in when they are present). Fortunately, the rangers exert some modifying influence so things don't often get out of hand at Olympic.

    Hopefully with an independent caretaker with some authority and a user fee, formation of 'regulars' will not take place . . . or at least they can be put in their place by a complaint mechanism should any individuals feel they have 'special' privilege. That is my hope, anyway.

    Your 'ranting' inspired an article on some of the issues you brought up that perhaps we are a little blind to or unwilling to discuss . . . so continue speaking your mind.

    Respectfully,

    Rick (aka banged_up_shins)

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