Stepping Down, While Standing Up for My Beliefs

Annah ElizabethLeave a Comment

I’ve never considered myself a quitter.

Much to the contrary, I’ve always viewed myself as someone who is full of moxie and tenacity, one who “sticks it out to the bitter end.”

But two weeks ago I not only walked away from endeavors that have my sweat stamped into them, I resigned my position as the group’s leader.

The decision was exhausting.

And disheartening.

When I originally rallied a group of senior parents to organize this year’s Project Graduation for my senior’s school, I had no intention of serving in a leadership role.

I was in the early stages of planning my first trip to Europe, and as my dates were pre-determined by an event I would be attending, I was running way behind in my research and scheduling.

Having been previously involved in the organization, and having been the person to initiate the gathering, I came prepared to facilitate the first meeting, educate new members as to the association’s objectives and goals, and move on. I made that clear from the onset.

When, after a second appeal, no one stepped forward to serve as either chairperson, someone hollered out, “I’m thinking you’re it, Annah!”

I acknowledged the flattery, and made yet another plea for people to step forward.

Responses came in the form of silence and stillness. Not one hand. Not one word.

Volunteer organizations seem to be struggling more and more in securing manpower on all levels. I knew this and had prepared for the possibility.

“If there is a strong person who is willing to co-chair with me, and can take over when I can’t be here during these first few months, then I’ll volunteer as co-chair.”

I knew I would be faced with challenges. I knew I would ultimately be responsible for seeing that the group’s needs were met, that if there were shortcomings, I would be one of two people to step up and fill in the gaps. And I knew the strengths of many of the people in attendance. It’s going to be okay, I told myself.

Little did I know, the person who agreed to join me would not bring the skill sets I had hoped for to the table, would not follow through with tasks in a timely manner, and would fail to relay critical information from a partnering organization.

And little did I know that I would be in the minority when it came to how people interpreted one of the fundamental principles and goals upon which Project Graduation was formed.

The original Project Graduation task force was established in Maine, three decades ago, when parents banded together to reduce the number of drug and alcohol-related fatalities following graduation ceremonies. It didn’t take long for groups across the nation to begin following in the footsteps of these pioneer parents.

Some who become involved do so because they have lost loved ones to drunk driving, some because they have friends or family members who are alcoholics, some are totally against the use of alcohol, while others simply believe in the cause. I am in the latter category.

Regardless, those that do participate have one common goal: To keep students safe on a high risk night. High school graduation.

What I have discovered, however, is that though we may share that objective, this group majority and I are seeing the premise through different lenses.

Numerous occasions I have been faced with opposition regarding my views on the use of alcohol or alcohol-based establishments in our fundraising efforts.

Businesses, organizations, and individuals routinely offer bottles of wine as gifts and tokens of gratitude.

But I feel that the promotion and use of such products for this type of group is not only in poor taste, it sends mixed messages to the students we are supporting and contradicts the organization’s underlying theme: We can have a good time without the use of alcohol and drugs.

I heard many arguments. “We aren’t selling raffle tickets to anyone under twenty-one.” “This is for adults.” “Then you are saying we can’t hold a fundraiser at the local restaurant because they serve alcohol.” “When people show up for our barbeques, they bring coolers of beer.”

No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t convince them the difference between promoting and sponsoring a barbeque (where people choose to bring an adult beverage), versus selling raffle tickets for baskets of wine, or hosting an event that directs people to a bar or tavern.

I offered compromises like using gift certificates instead of the actual product; using public parks, restaurants, and retail stores as alternative locations for a biker Poker Run. I even offered that if a group of motorcycle enthusiasts preferred, they could organize the event and donate the money to us.

But, I did not feel we should promote or sponsor an event where we sold alcohol or tickets for alcohol, nor one that directs people to a venue that is predominately in the business of selling alcohol.

The first discussions were disrupted when the person who suggested the Poker Run never returned to another meeting, and with the other basket raffles we had plenty of sponsors. But when the idea was put on the table for this latest raffle, no amount of discussion could derail the majority’s decision.

“Other schools have raffled off entire cases that people have donated, and they are good fundraisers for them.” “This is what we’re doing.”

A lone voice in a room of opposition, I found myself, once again, questioning if I was being too stubborn, looking at the situation from a skewed angle, and asking myself if I was failing in my role.

There had been other controversial issues where I was in the minority. Even though I’d received confirmation that other respected leaders agreed with me in the past, I was beginning to think maybe my logic was, indeed, wrong. Once again I reached out, and once again, the validity of my convictions was confirmed.

I could overcome taking the lead and picking up the slack when my co-leader dropped the ball. But now I’d finally reached a point where I couldn’t compromise.

So strong were my beliefs that I chose to step down, to walk away from my involvement, even knowing that I was leaving during a critical time in the planning stage.

I spent hours trying to minimize the effect of my departure on the remaining committee members.

I consolidated my notes, tied up loose ends, and pulled together the resources they would need to finish out their work.

In doing so, I discovered that quitting isn’t always a bad thing. One can walk away from a situation with integrity and with head held high.

“I cannot support this and will be resigning,” I said to those I sought out for their opinions on the matter.

“I applaud you for standing up for your beliefs.” Each of the first three people I spoke to said to me.

“Most people would have said, ‘Hey, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. Good for you,” the first person said to me.

“Many people would have just given in.”

“What a valuable lesson for your children,” the last said to me, “for them to see you standing up for what you believe in.”

And that’s when something even greater really hit home. I guess I’ve taken for granted the power of my voice, the power of the voice I’ve given my kids.

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