Monday, March 25, 2013

I literally have lists of ideas, people

Recently I was set apart as the Temporal Welfare Committee co-chair at church*. Since the name doesn't tell much about the committee, the other co-chairs and I spent several weeks figuring out what our mandate is exactly. It turns out we're in charge of cleaning the church on a rotating schedule with the other wards that meet in the building, planning and organizing emergency preparedness for the ward and its members, and discovering and creating meaningful service opportunities for our members that serve our community and help non-members have a positive experience with LDS people. The bishop, in his own words, has "a service itch the stake's** service activities just aren't scratching". Kind of a broad mission statement.

This calling plays to several of my strengths and past experiences, namely: 1. Being a creative activity planner 2. organizing times, dates, supplies, logistics, etc. 3. Telling people what to do 4. Convincing people they want to do something 5. Solving problems 6. Running events with lots of people in attendance 7. a desire to make people happy.

My recent project manager past, though, makes me want to organize things in a very specific way. I have to stop myself from sending out emails listing "follow up items" or specific "goals for the meeting". Now, these are all good things that lead to efficiency and organization, but they can be kind of intense for people who are doing this on a volunteer basis on top of already-busy lives. I've had to come up with ways to accomplish the same thing without heavy-handed methods. Part of my strategy is to make sure there is food anytime my co-chairs and I have a meeting. It seems to soothe the fact that it comes at the end of an additional four hours of leadership and church meetings on Sunday.

However, my hyper-management ways got an additional fire lit under them yesterday at church when the ward clerk and I were talking about the budget. Basically he said that the budget is a flexible tool, and money can moved to other areas as needed. Basically that whoever first comes up with good ideas to benefit the ward gets the money. Basically that if I am more organized than the next committee, I get all the money I want. I think he was kind of kidding, but I'm running with it.

Sometimes I want to be Leslie Knope. Sometimes I believe I am her.

Leslie: I spent the last few months brainstorming, and I have some really great ideas, and I put them in my idea binders. I mean, they’re color coded for god’s sake!

Today, I’m getting organized. It’s long overdue and even though it’s gorgeous out (spring! don’t leave! make summer wait!), I’m camped out at the coffee shop w/free wi-fi and organizing myself.
Yay for Action Notebooks! It makes me feel like i’ve gotten far more done than I have — and I have a better grasp of who I need to contact/harass. I’m putting my “no’s” on the back page of each section, and am looking forward to being able to cross those names off and add them to the “yes” section — I figure I can check in three more times after the first “sorry, they’re unavailable” response. Perhaps a little excessive, but it can’t hurt to try, right? In email, they can’t kick me in the shins. However, in email, they can’t see my awesomeness it’s harder to win them over to my cause.
I’m getting better at calling people on the phone, though. Maybe I need to lead with a “Deputy Director” title before I go into my spiel — but I don’t know if I’m bold enough for that yet.
Leslie: I spent the last few months brainstorming, and I have some really great ideas, and I put them in my idea binders!

Competition for limited resources, what? If I am more organized I get to help more people, what? All I have to do is tell people what we should do quickly and succinctly, what? Done. I'm sorry co-chairs, get ready for a whole lot of due dates and action items coming your way. There will be dinner at our next meeting.

* The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints consists mainly of a lay ministry and members of the congregation that are asked to fulfill various roles ("callings") in helping the ward run smoothly. We do everything from tend toddlers to teach teenagers to count the tithing that is donated to leading the ward choir. We fulfill these responsibilities for anywhere from a few months to a few years - changing whenever the bishop (also a volunteer) asks us to do something else.
** The LDS church around the world is divided up into wards (the equivalent of parishes) that are then grouped into geographically-based stakes that are presided over by a stake presidency.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Public Transportation

I like traveling. I like traveling with like-minded people. I like traveling among people. Some of this comes from my enjoyment of moving, of seeing, of experiencing, of almost magically getting on in some quiet borough and getting off in a busy, dizzying metropolis. It helps that I can (and do) sleep almost anywhere in almost any position. But no matter the destination, getting there is also enjoyable.

Now I could launch into an analogy about life and how we're supposed to enjoy the journey and how we get there is just as important as arriving, but I won't.

One of the best parts of the actual travel part of traveling is the people (besides flying. Flying is awesome. Looking at the tops of clouds is awesome.). Of course there are the super garrulous folks who want to talktalktalk the whole trip when you just want to read or sleep, but I think they're annoying because we've decided that they're annoying. I always enjoy traveling more when I take my headphones out, I close my book, and I look around me and interact. And then go back to reading my book because, dang it, I really want to read my book.

Thanksgiving 2011 really brought this home to me. I was living in Wisconsin and traveling to Boston to visit my sister (Boston is awesome at Thanksgiving. Massachusetts is like Thanksgivingland.). I was traveling on the actual morning of Thanksgiving, and I was wondering how people were going to be. Turns out they're fantastic. Traveling Thanksgiving morning is the best because everyone is going somewhere happy. People are boarding shuttles and planes with large tupperwares of cookies in their laps. They're going to see family. Couples are traveling to some exotic locale. I saw a large extended family maneuver all of their children onto the plane for a destination holiday. And the kids weren't complaining. Partly because it was super early in the morning and they were still half asleep, but partly because they were going somewhere awesome.

I once flew next to a woman who spent the entire flight engrossed in a manual on growing lilies. Engrossed. It was all about different strains of lilies, how much water to give, how deep to plant them, etc. There were complex diagrams and everything. Yes, I was reading over her shoulder. Don't tell me you don't do it on the plane sometimes.

I was on the metro here in DC near Valentine's Day and I overheard an older, well-dressed man order $75 worth of chocolate covered strawberries to be delivered. Now I don't know much about the chocolate strawberry market, but that seems like a lot of berries.

I once entertained a little girl sitting in front of my on a flight for half an hour by playing peekaboo and pulling weird faces. I have a lot of weird faces. Apparently she was very upset when I ended up falling asleep.

I met a woman on a flight who was in the final stages of preparing for her significant other and her to bicycle across the continental US. The summer before they had done the entire Appalachian trail. Look it up.

During a stormy flight once I talked to a man in industrial design who explained to me that the wings of the plane were designed to bend and flex, but maybe not quite as much as they were currently doing. It was super comforting.

The other day on the metro I talked to a nice man about human rights abuses in the Baltic states and about his children and the schools in the area.

An old couple I was sitting with one time were convinced that I was the perfect match for their grandson and that moregirlsthesedaysneedtohavemoregumptionlikeIdidinordertotrynewthingsandnotwaitaroundforpeoplebutstillIshouldmarrytheirgrandsonbecauseIwouldbegoodforhim. They got my number and everything so they could invite me over for dinner. Sadly I never got a call and never met this paragon-of-manly-virtues-grandson. My loss, apparently.

There really is nothing like mass transit to get so many dissimilar people in a space together, have them be quiet, and have them studiously ignore each other for significant periods of time. Some groups of people make it harder for people to ignore them than others. But there is always somebody interesting or some interaction to observe that is funny or heartwarming or odd or memorable. Especially when your phone dies and you have no other choice but to finally look up.