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Article ID: 3766
Age Group: Adult
Posted: December 22nd. 2001
Pagan Doers - How To Get Things Done
There has been a lot of talk in our community lately about what our Pagan Leaders do for us (and in some cases, to us). But I'm not going to speak on that subject, because the folks here at Full Circle are not Leaders, we're Doers.
Doers make things happen and their actions light the way for those that wish to follow their example. Full Circle lights the way by organizing events for the Earth Wise Community as a whole. Those who want to join us, show up and get to work. Our volunteers have a say in what we do and how we do it. Those who simply want to attend our events, do that. The latter vote with their feet and with their pocketbooks and we think that's fair.
What we do here at Full Circle is done at a grass roots level. We work in and for the community. You have a chance to meet and talk to any of us whenever you attend or work on one of our events. You also have the power to help our organization grow and to make a difference in your community.
Full Circle was started by two women with a vision of a Pagan Event Group that was non-denominational and community based. We were committed to networking and to charity work and we wanted this organization to reflect that. We also wanted to create a group that was family friendly but offered adult only events, as well. Finally, we wanted to do Inter-faith work because we wanted to meet people of like mind who cared for Mama Gaia and respected Earth Wise Spirituality. And so we began the work of creating Full Circle. We were later joined by some marvelous men who helped us make this vision into a reality.
I occasionally hear stories that paint Full Circle as some huge organization with deep pockets and a vast network of volunteers. The stories are born, in part, because we do complex events, like M.U.S.E Camp and The Witches Ball, rather well. Would that these stories were true. The money that funds Full Circle comes from several of our Council members. We are not rich and we have families to support, so this was cause for some nail biting on our part. Happily, we have managed to end every year in the black. As for our volunteers, they are few in number, but highly organized, extremely competent, and very dedicated.
The Council members and our Web Builder put in a lot of volunteer time for Full Circle. This is added to the time we spend at our jobs and with our families. Over time, we've found others who share the vision and, equally important, they are people who share our work ethic. While we would never ask our volunteers to work the insane kinds of hours we put in (we're twisted, we freely admit it) we do ask them to follow through on the things they commit to do. We have been wonderfully surprised at the results. We always knew in our hearts that responsible Pagans were out there and they've proved that to us. We also knew that the other kind were out there, and sure enough, they've taken on projects only to "flake" and let us down. Thankfully, that has happened only a few times and we've always been able to regroup, so it has never hurt the quality of our events.
Yet, even responsible and dedicated people can get hit by what our Chief of Operations calls "The Cosmic Twinkie Truck". For this reason, we try to train two people for any one position, just in case. It is not unlike the apprentice programs you'll find in the various guilds or in the martial arts. By training up those who will replace us, we insure that our people won't burn out and that our work will go on after we're gone. Otherwise, we 'll have nurtured nothing more than a Cult of Personality and that's not what we're about.
But how do you find people with whom you can share both authority and responsibility? We do that by working with our volunteers over a period of time. We get to know their skills and their areas of interest. When they have shown us that they are committed and capable, then we ask if they'd like to do more. If they say "yes", they are given more responsibility. We try to give them work to do that excites them because people with a passion can move mountains. At the same time, we make sure that the folks who do the dull jobs get first pick when something fun comes around. In this way, we find the Doers: the people who have the time, commitment, skills, and resources to make things happen. For example, acting Chairs from two of last year's events were asked to join the Council this year. Some of last years' volunteers were asked to act as Chairs of Committees. Some members have now become very active volunteers on certain committees. Members of other Pagan groups have since signed up to work on special projects with us for next year. We believe that by doing this work in an organized fashion we are building something of value for all Pagans.
We're blessed here and we know it. Very often, the people we've needed have miraculously appeared and they've done a stellar job. As for the few people who've let us down ... well, what can you do? Flaky people are everywhere, not just in the Pagan community. Alas, they are often the most charming and enthusiastic people we encounter. The so-called "Flake Factor" is the reason why most non-profit groups don't hand important responsibilities over to untried volunteers. You see, we've all been disappointed too many times to take anyone on at face value. Don't let that worry you though, you will find a welcome here. We don't pre-judge anyone but we do pay close attention. What you say is not as important as what you do and how well you play with others. If you let us down, we'll release you with blessings, wave goodbye and wish you well. Then we'll get on with the work we have on hand.
Some people come to us and want to give us their power. To this we say "Thanks, but no thanks". None of us want to be Gurus. We believe that being Pagan means accepting responsibility for yourself, your actions and for the quality of your life. We believe that it means claiming your own power and not giving it over to someone else. Ideally, it also means that you use your power to better the world you live in. That's what Pagan Doers do.
Occasionally, we'll have someone approach us who wants to pad their "Pagan Resume" and they think that our group might be a good way to do that. These people often want to start at the top and they are disappointed to find that we don't care very much for titles around here. You may be Lord Duck-a-Muck or a 5th Generation Atlantian or even an Elf-friend. That's fine; this is California after all, but when you're here among us, you're just one of the gang.
For this and other reasons, I ask our people to read books on subjects such as:
- Active Listening,
- Positive Confrontation
- Codependency & Dysfunctional Family Systems
- Group Dynamics
- Stress & Anger Management &
- Effective Management Techniques
We then sit with our volunteers and work out ways of dealing with certain situations. "Praise people very publicly, " we say, "and correct mistakes privately". "Don't spread gossip". "Listen more then you talk". "Remember" , we say, "to place principals before personalities." And most importantly, "Fight fair when you disagree and treat each other with respect."
Not everyone has these tools placed in their toolbox during childhood. Some of us have to add them in as adults. I know many Pagans who can claim to have 50 books on ritual techniques in their library but they don't own a single book on conflict resolution. I believe that this is one reason why so many Pagan groups don't last.
We're an eclectic bunch, we Pagans, so that means we need to listen to as many different voices as possible if we want to serve our community. We have people in positions of responsibility that are Gay, Lesbian, Straight, or Bi-sexual. Some of our folks are in monogamous relationships, some live the single life, and some are in polyamorous households. Some have children and some do not. Overall, we encompass a wide range of Paths and Traditions. Our backgrounds, ages and life experience vary widely. We also do inter-faith work, as I've said, and I'm proud to say that we have Jewish folks, Buddhists, New Age Thinkers, Christians, and Secular Humanists working right alongside of us. Some of these people attend our events, some are involved in groups we sponsor, some serve in Operations, and some work on various committees. All are valued for their greatness of heart and for their many skills.
When we do use a title such as "Leader" we have a wyrd way of defining it. A "Leader" at Full Circle is the one you see doing the donkey work. This comes as a shock to some people. We've had folks approach us who want to have all the "fun" of leading, that is, they want to pick and choose all the interesting tasks for themselves and they want to have other people do the dull and boring jobs. Other types think that leading means telling other people what to do and doing nothing at all themselves. Here at Full Circle we think differently. We think that being in charge of something means that you do the most work of anyone in your group. It means you're the first one to arrive and the last one to leave. You do whatever needs doing. If that means you clean the toilets before an event, then so be it. Don't laugh, I' ve done that. The closest I've ever gotten to holding a Staff of Office is that toilet brush. So it goes.
Often people come to us and say "You should do THIS!" ("And with what army?" I think to myself). What I reply to them, though, is this: "That's a great idea! Now, how are you going to make that happen?" I even have a form for them to fill out. (1) . It asks for details, schedules, budgets, fund raising ideas, and a list of likely volunteers for said project. Ninety-nine people out of a hundred shake their heads and walk away. But sometimes that one special person approaches us and says "I'd like to see this happen and here's what I can do to help". That person usually ends up on a Committee. And then, Goddess help them, because they are now a Pagan Doer. As such, their goal will be, as our motto states, to "Honor the past, celebrate the present and create the future".
Wishing you strength, laughter and good company,
(1) Oh, yes I do! How do you think I've survived this long?
Bio: Sia recently completed a two year term on the Board of Directors of the Wildlife Rescue Effort. Overall, she has worked with a total of 5 different non-profit groups on a variety of social & educational issues. She has over 15 years of experience working behind the scenes at a variety of conventions and gatherings; mostly in the Neo-Pagan, Science Fiction and Feminist communities. Her academic background is in English Literature, with an emphasis on Women's Studies and Art History.
She practices in a Green Tradition and is active in several Ritual Circles in Silicon Valley and in Santa Cruz. For the last 6 years she has presented lectures and led workshops on such topics as wildlife preservation, conflict resolution and Neo-Paganism.
Sia is the Owner of Snapdragon Gifts (www.snapdragongifts.com). She lives with her husband and 4 cats in Santa Clara, California. In her spare time, she gardens and works as a volunteer Rehabilitator for various wildlife and cat rescue groups. She is currently writing a book on the use of humor in Ritual.
Photo credit: The amazing image above comes from the Fairy Oracle by Brian Froud mnd is used by permission. Other images by Brian can be viewed at www.worldoffroud.com
Author's Note: If you have enjoyed reading this piece, I would ask the you help support the Witches Voice in their efforts to celebrate and support the Pagan community by becoming a Witchvox Sponsor. They rely on our support to keep this non-profit website up and running, so please, do your part to help our community and send them a donation. With thanks, Sia
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