30 July 2019 | 6 min read
Everybody Has a Purpose
At Volunteer U, we firmly believe that every member of the team has a unique purpose. It’s our goal to highlight those different purposes through celebration and thankfulness.
There’s an ancient myth that tells the story of an old man who lived at a little village on the top of a hill. Every day he would put two pots on a beam across his shoulders and make the long journey to the bottom of the hill where there was a river. He would fill both pots with water, turn around and walk back up the hill. The old man did this for many years. One day one of the little pots noticed she had a few cracks and when the old man filled her with water she would leak as he walked up the hill.
At first, she only spilled a little bit of water, but after a few years, she found she was almost empty by the time she got to the top of the hill. One morning, before the old man made his daily journey, the little pot pleaded with him, “Please sir, do not take me to get water today. I have too many cracks and can no longer do the job I was intended to do for you.”
The old man only smiled and shook his head. “Come with me, I will show you something.”
He lifted the little pot in his arms and started down the path to the water. She stayed on his right side just as she did every day. But from her vantage point in his arms instead of over his shoulder she could see much more of the hillside. The closer they got to the river, the more shame she felt. She knew she wouldn’t be able to hold the water all the way back up the hill today, and now she would be forced to watch the water leak out onto the ground.
Just as he did every day for years, the old man gently put her in the water and filled her to the brim. “Now, you will see why I carry you every day up and down the hill.” The man said as he turned to walk back the way they had come.
She was now on his other side and as she looked worriedly to the ground as the water began to seep out of her cracks, the little pot gasped. “Flowers!”
The entire hill on one side was covered in a row of beautiful flowers. The old man chuckled at her surprise and quietly said, “You do have a purpose little pot. Even though it is not the same as that other pot or even the same as what it used to be…it is still a purpose. I planted these flower seeds years ago when I noticed you were leaking water. Now every day on my long journey up and down the hill I have a garden to look at to make the trip more enjoyable.”
Everyone has a purpose. And everyone can contribute to the team, even if they don’t see how their efforts make much of a difference. As leaders, it’s our responsibility to show our team that they have a unique purpose and that it is needed.
How do we make every purpose feel valuable?
It’s important to highlight all members of our volunteer team, not just the ones who produce the most work or are in a highlighted position. Social Media is a great way to shine the spotlight on volunteers who may not normally be seen. Snap a picture of a team member working and share a few lines about how much they bring to the team. Be sure to include specifics about how their unique blend of personality and hard work has made a significant impact. Even if that impact can’t be measured by physical standards. I once worked with a special needs volunteer whose job was to hand out flyers to guests as they entered the building. She didn’t always remember to give the flyer, but she did remember to smile brightly and say how happy she was to see them. That volunteer made everyone feel important and welcome. She may have had a stack of flyers left over after her shift, but the way she made guests feel as they came inside was unmeasurable and left a far better impression on clients than a handout ever could.
#2 SAY THANKS.
Saying thank you goes a long way toward boosting team morale. A sincere thank you from the leadership team makes even those with tedious jobs feel appreciated. It’s easy to assume our team knows we’re grateful for what they do for us, but there’s nothing like hearing those words. Take the time to say “Thank You” to your team today. They’ll feel valued and seen and you will have validated their purpose.
Be (even) better at leading.
Get articles, expert Q&As, and practical insights delivered right to your inbox. Sign up for the Volunteer U blog.