We’re coming up on the halfway point of the Volunteer Maryland service year, and that means it is midyear retreat time. Our midyear retreat is an opportunity for our members to take a step back from their service sites and reconnect with what brought them to Volunteer Maryland in the first place. It’s a chance for them to regroup, and a chance to spend time with their peers that they haven’t seen since January.
Last year’s midyear retreat was a great experience. I got to hang out with a fellow Volunteer Maryland Coordinator that I didn’t know very well, even though we had driven to trainings together. I got to spend some quiet time wading in the Chesapeake Bay… in February, and won a prize for being the first person that had done it that season at the venue we held the retreat at. It was a great experience to hang out with my peers and watch them let down their guard. Our staff learned that asking me to do something silly isn’t always the best idea – although it does result in silliness.
This year’s midyear retreat focuses on the idea of play. It’s something we really don’t take the time out of our day to do once we become an adult. Playing is a childish thing, we say to ourselves, as we get lost in our world of car payments, jobs, and retirement savings. I know I’ve lost some play time in my life; I’m working two jobs right now and might be picking up a third in a few weeks.
There are a few things that I do when I do get a chance to play. I like to go out into the world and try to see it in ways that people don’t normally look at it, and then take a picture. I like that I can lose myself in what I’m doing when I go out with my camera. I love getting so wrapped up in what I’m doing that bombs could be going off and I won’t notice.
I love spending time in my friends’ kitchens, sharing myself with them and sitting down to a meal, insulating us from our world and our troubles. At least for as long as the food and conversation lasts.
That’s what we’re trying to do for our Volunteer Maryland Coordinators, too. We want to take them from a place that’s most likely wearing them down right now, and put them somewhere safe and away from any sort of friction. Not only that, but we’re hoping to give them a set of tools they can take back to their service sites that will help them to deal with any conflict they may be dealing with at their sites. Hopefully, after the retreat we’ll all be able to move our jobs a step or two closer to play.
Check out American Public Media’s Speaking of Faith with Krista Tippett from July 24, 2008, where she talks with Stuart Brown, a physician and director of the National Institute for Play.