What Can I Do?
For five years, I managed Capital District Key Club Convention. Each year, this weekend event was attended by about 700-900 high school students plus about 100-200 adult advisors and Kiwanis members. Our on-site work began mid-day Thursday, attendees arrived on Friday afternoon, and the convention concluded late Sunday morning. At any given moment during any of these conventions, I was busy, inspired, stressed, excited, busy, frustrated, crazed and busy. Did I mention busy? It was always a hectic, all-consuming, weekend. It was powerful and empowering too, in many different ways. The high school students serving on the Key Club District Board made it worthwhile, always. And they often taught the biggest lessons too. The first year I was in charge, I remember vividly those who came to me repeatedly throughout the weekend saying, “What can I do? Do you need help? Can I do anything for you?” Fortunately, this trend continued for each of the years that followed by conscientious, impressive young leaders I worked with and loved during that year.
When these questions were asked, sometimes the answer was yes, and tasks were easy to delegate. Other times it required more explanation than it would be help so there was no delegation. I often would say something like, “Not just this second, but stand by because probably in a few minutes, yes.” And they would. Either way, I was always grateful. These kids were the best. They weren’t saying “What can I do?” because they wanted something to do and they needed to feel needed – or to make some sort of statement about how sometimes it is hard for me to delegate certain tasks. They were asking because they cared about what we were all doing together and they wanted to contribute – and because they cared about me too (and the feelings were mutual). It was a powerful reminder about the value of being supportive and saying the right thing at the right time. You are expressing much more than an offer to assist when you say to a busy person, “Can I do anything to help you?” When I think about my five years of managing programming, logistics and everything in between, these words, from poised and kind high school students, tie everything together. Each year, we had a theme for the convention, but these words are the recurring theme for me, and they validated and buoyed me during the hectic moments of the weekends.
This weekend is the first Capital District Key Club Convention since 2010 that I am not managing and since 2006 that I am not attending in full. I know for sure what I wish for those who are managing it this year though: lots of sweet and earnest kids who say, “What can I do?” – and mean it – and who are willing to help with whatever is needed, even if that just means waiting until the next thing happens that needs to be done. I know that’s what I will be expressing too on Friday when I visit, and I know first-hand how much it will make a difference…even if there’s nothing to do at the moment I ask.