Yesterday I got into a certain mindset, and started writing, and posted the following on Facebook on the West Kingdom page. I’m putting here to save it for posterity … I must have hit a chord or two, it got shared 31 times (as of this morning), and the number of likes, loves, etc. is pretty high:
Officers and Volunteers in the SCA
A discussion (long) …
The other day a friend bemoaned the fact that when her husband stepped up to take on a major office in the Kingdom, no photos were taken. I would venture to guess that the photographers at court didn’t think about it — it wasn’t an award or presentation in Court, so why bother taking a photo? While this is certainly true, it points up a bigger issue: appreciation of the folk who keep the SCA going. This rant isn’t about photographers or photographs — that’s just what sparked it …
Many officers do things that no one ever sees (I can’t mention each and every officer, this is a general rant … If I didn’t mention your office in this, I’m not ignoring the work you do.). I think this is part of the problem. We all know about the heralds who run around making announcements (often — and this warms the cockles of my heart — those heralds get a “Thank you, herald!” after the announcements), we know about the heralds and marshals who run tournaments — we see them, we know about the heralds who run courts, we know about the constable we interact with at gate … but how much do you know about what all the other officers do?
Did you know that about a year and a half ago (maybe two) the SCA was audited by the IRS, and our Kingdom Exchequer had to put in extra hours to deal with the West Kingdom’s end of it? Do you know how much effort an autocrat has to put in just to procure a site we can afford, and then deal with all the outrageous things that site owners try to do to them? Do you know what the marshals do *besides* run tournaments? What about all those other offices you don’t hear anything about? Have you ever watched the folk at the Lists tables scrambling to get the tournament sorted out and the fights paired off?
Do you know what the constable does before and after an event? The paperwork handling and such?
Do you know how many hours our officers put in at home, dealing with phone calls, emails, handling all the paperwork, getting newsletters to the publisher, etc.?
The amount of things the Seneschal gets to deal with is pretty astounding. The Kingdom Exchequer spends huge amounts of time making sure that all the books balance, and when I say “all” I mean for all the Kingdom stuff, the Principality stuff (because they have to work with the Principality Exchequers) and the local branches … it all has to balance out, and not just once a year, but constantly.
Did you know that the King and Queen (and Princes and Princesses) are part of the regalia committee, the finance committee and more? They do a lot more stuff off-site than you might realize. The same for Landed Barons and Baronesses …
What I am getting at is that I honestly believe that in today’s SCA everyone has gotten really comfortable with showing up at the event, signing in, and then just having a great event. No one really knows, understands (and it often feels like) or even cares how much work went into making this happen.
What I would like to ask members of the populace to do is to talk to your local, Principality, and Kingdom officers. Get to know them. Find out what they do. Buy them a drink and let them unload some of the frustrations they deal with (if they can talk about them … let’s not even get into the things that officers aren’t allowed legally to talk about). Give them a hug. Let them know that you understand that without them, this organization would fall over.
Because it is true. No one who does any work for the SCA (except a couple at the Corporate level) gets paid. We’re ALL volunteers. Our real-world lives sometimes suffer greatly because of the jobs we taken on for this group.
You know what else would be good? Volunteer. Don’t leave an officer hanging — someone shouldn’t have to serve for four years because after two, they couldn’t find a successor. Two years is a long time to do something like this.
When an office changes hands, don’t say “I’m sorry” to the person taking the job — THANK THEM! Be glad for them, make them know that you appreciate them. When an officer steps down from a job, thank them as well, but don’t make it sound like the new person’s life is over when they take the job on. I have heard, more than once, when a volunteer takes on a new job in the SCA “I’m so sorry for you …”. Don’t — really — not even in jest. They know they’re taking on a task, they may not realize how much yet, but they know. You might, instead, offer to help them if they are your friend — even if they’re not.
But more than anything else — thank these people. I am not asking for me — people tell me that the things I do must be “thankless tasks”, but I actually get a lot of “thank yous” both in person and in private email, but many of the things I do people see regularly (awards list, history site …). The other officers, the other volunteers who keep us going don’t get enough recognition from the populace (and I’m not thinking about awards). A simple “Thank you” can make an officer’s day. Let them know you care, and that you see the work they do.
Don’t just do it today. Do it at every event. Find the folk who make things happen and thank them.
And again, consider volunteering yourself. Of course, some people’s lives are crazy and they can’t take on a job right now. But at an event you might be able to take half an hour or an hour and work with someone — ease their burden a bit.