To me, the secret to staying sane in a world that seems anything but is contained within this ancient Chinese proverb: “The person who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.”

Now that’s some wisdom I can really dig! I mean, if you are anything like me—and I know you are just because you're reading PTO Today when you could be, should be, would be doing a dozen other pressing things in your so-called “spare time”—then you’ve been moving mountains for ages. Fact is, you care so much about children and their education that you can’t imagine not being in the trenches, sweating and shoveling. Am I right?

I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve gone home after a PTO committee meeting feeling as though, this time, yep, this time for real, I’d truly bitten off more than I could chew. Surely that wasn’t my arm shooting skyward when the fundraising committee chair asked for a volunteer to handle publicity for the first-ever school carnival. What was I thinking?

Sure, I’m the logical choice because I’ve been there, done that and I love to write. But I’m also self-employed, with a huge deadline the same day the press releases need to go out. My staff consists solely of me, myself, and I. And wouldn’t you know it, my daughters have a piano recital the night before D-day. How in the world...?

After a short freak-out, I remember that the truth of the matter is that somehow, some way, things always manage to work out. Maybe not always to my liking, but always to a conclusion of sorts. And “the end” is never dependent on the number of brain cells I burn worrying and scurrying. Yet I can’t seem to stop myself from considering the what-ifs.

“Uncle!” I imagine myself shouting into the phone the next day when I am forced to call and admit, “Julie, I am terribly sorry to let you down, but I just can’t do it. Not this time. You see...” The excuses, certainly all reasonable and valid, rain down as the curtain closes on a conversation that I know will never, ever happen in real life.


It’s déjà vu all over again. I’m at the committee meeting as before, but this time—wow—some guy raises his hand first! Omigosh! I’m still sitting on mine, biting my bottom lip.

Oh, I like this one:

It’s 9 o’clock on a Saturday morning, and the knock on the door that I’ve been waiting my whole lifetime to hear finally sounds. “Hi, I’m Ed McMahon, and this is your lucky day. You’ve won the Publishers Clearing House sweepstakes!” After screaming and then realizing I’m dreaming, I also realize that winning a sum containing six or so zeros in front of the decimal point could actually backfire. How? By affording me yet more “free” time for volunteering even more than I already do. Besides, I know this can only be a dream because you have to enter to win and I haven’t done that since I was a Seventeen magazine subscriber.

I’m sure the medical profession has a prescription for what could be termed impulsive/compulsive behavior when it comes to volunteerism. But you know and I know what they don’t: There’s no addiction to cure here. You see, Doc, the deal is that I receive so much more than I give that my volunteering is actually one of the reasons I’m such a healthy, happy specimen.

You know full well about that inner glow, that rewarding sense of fulfillment of which I speak. I ask you, who needs drugs when volunteering is one of the best natural highs in the world?

One thing’s for sure: You can count on this volunteerism devotee to just say yes to that next mountainous task. And I’ll accomplish it same as always—one stone at a time.

Brenda Rader Mross is a veteran parent group volunteer in Wellington, Colo.