The over-participator


Ever notice the person at your work, at your church, in your neighborhood – wherever – who seems to have waged a not-so-secret campaign to out-participate you and everyone you know? Most of these people got their start back in the junior high/early high school period when volunteering comes out of nowhere and suddenly becomes the rage (mostly because colleges overemphasize its importance for admission). Anyway, I’m not ripping here on people who are active, support causes or especially on people who volunteer. In doses, these are very healthy things to do for others and for oneself. I am, however, ripping on the over-participators who are so focused on participating in things that they seem to forget about other important things – like say, making time for their family. You know who they are. They are the ones who make you feel sort of guilty that you haven’t run in a charitable 5K recently, or that you aren’t at all active at your church, or that you don’t coach your child’s team, or that you aren’t a highly ranked PTA member, or that you aren’t on multiple committees at work, or that you don’t attend most class field trips with your child’s class, or that you don’t support the local art museum, or that you weren’t answering phones at the local PBS fund drive until midnight last night.

I have learned that in order to best deal with these people, it helps to simply state “you’re so…capable” . First of all, this is exactly what they are longing for you to say (though “you’re so…altruistic” may also be a winning comment). And secondly, there is a chance that by making them feel good about themselves in this way, it may distract them at least momentarily from guilting you into participating in something that you really have no interest in participating in.

9 Responses to “The over-participator”

  1. bucky Says:

    I think I’d characterize myself as an underparticipator. Unless there’s alcohol involved.

    I also think everyone who knows me would agree.

  2. Trav Says:

    Andy – There must be a good backstory to generate your post.

    Related…I took a day off recently to help with a 4th grade field trip. I was the only male and the only one who had not attended all the previous field trips. You would have thought I had the plague with how I was shut out of from all the other parent’s and their reindeer games. Interesting dynamic with that group. I guess you either join the “over-participator” group the first day of school and get your name listed in every class newsletter under the “Thank You” section or you’re just not up to snuff.

    I know I had a lot more fun on the field trip, even with my exclusion, than I would have had at my desk that day.

  3. awhayes Says:

    Nice Bucky, nice. Quality “underparticipator” coinage.

    I’d have to say I’m a fleeting-participator – I get really into one idea only to see it fade, then it takes a while to get back into another idea/event. It’s funny though, as I look back at the examples of over-participator-type events I gave in the post, it is quite a sobering list – not sure any of those events involve alcohol except maybe supporting an art museum. So essentially, I think you and I are saying the same thing.

  4. bucky Says:

    Ok, all joking aside: it’s been a long time since I went to Henry Clay and Lake Bluff, and I don’t have any kids. But since when are parents going on field trips? I mean, maybe one or two came along to help wrangle the kids when I was young, but all of the parents? Really? And it is not only allowed, but expected? That’s just freaking nuts.

    I think my wife and I made the right decision when we determined that the only little feet pattering around our house would belong to the cats.

  5. Trav Says:

    Bucky – Sorry, should have been more descriptive. It wasn’t a 1:1 child to parent ratio. There were 4 parents that went to help wrangle, myself included, for the 29 kids in the class. And I remember the same thing from my childhood, it was a rarity when parents came along. The pendulum has definitely swung the other way. Some days, I do think the cat route would have been easier.

  6. 56Coop Says:

    Totally off subject here & I’m sure there will be a post shortly but Favre just ain;t gonna let this thing die—

  7. Ron La Canne Says:

    56, the St Paul Pioneer Press is saying that ole #4 will have surgery and report to camp after 6-8 weeks of rehab. And I was so looking forward to talking about football. Now we’re back to watching a complete basket case make a fool of himself once again.

  8. awhayes Says:

    Trav – still laughing from your experience.

  9. 56Coop Says:

    Hell with it, bring him on!!!

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