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Zelda Gatuskin's
Humanist Message for August 2014
"Counting Down... to Your Stepping Up"

[Reprinted from the HSNM August 2014 Newsletter.   Previous Essays]

The following is a special message to the members of the Humanist Society of New Mexico, but I hope it will inspire anyone who has cared enough to pitch in dues to an organization or drop in on their meetings to try giving a little more - of your time, your talents, your input - or "just" a word of encouragement to others. It feels good. It helps. It matters. --ZG

By my calculations, this is my third-to-last President's Message. I expect I will continue to write for the Newsletter, but as of November 1, a new HSNM President will take the reins, and he or she will have dibs on this primo placement, first page, above the fold. Who will it be?

What could be better than being President? I am not being facetious. It is an affirming and confidence-building experience to be President, especially of a group like HSNM. The job is what you make it. The membership will praise you when you do well, and help you when you struggle. In addition to the Governing Board, on which I will continue to sit as Past President, there are a number of past officers of HSNM from whom to seek guidance. Also, the staff at the national AHA office are available to provide practical assistance on a variety of matters.

And then there's science. There is nothing magical about writing an agenda, sending a notice and running a meeting. You can learn how to do it from a book, and get good at it with practice. Since our board is small and congenial, we don't let the rules rule us, but we adhere to the necessary basics. How many times have you sat in a group trying to get something done or make a decision and thought, "Sheesh, if only someone would...." Well, you can be that someone who keeps folks on track and working together.

Public speaking or acting as a public representative takes more art than science. That too can be learned, but practice is the most important thing. Since the HSNM audience is always friendly, presiding over our meetings is a great chance to develop communication skills that will make you more effective in everything you do.

In our hyper-competitive and economically stressed society, holding a leadership position in an organization such as ours offers public distinction and practical know-how that can be put to good advantage in any line of work. The balancing act is worth the effort. I think a lot of us take ourselves out of the running for such positions because of ingrained biases, or perceived biases, to our age, gender, level of education, or length of resume. It's true that in past years the HSNM officers were generally retirees, because they had the time to give to the organization. On our current board, small as it is, we have gender balance, a range in ages, varied educational backgrounds, and a mix of working and retired members. With the speed of technological developments and the benefits to be gained from them, we would not be a very effective organization without this diversity.

What does HSNM "the next generation" look like? I had envisioned something between a democratic, grassroots organization and a well-oiled machine. I'm not sure we have achieved either. We have incorporated. We have raised our public profile. We have maintained our monthly meeting schedule and engaged in some successful special events. We're still solvent! But there are times when I worry that our success is superficial and our progress unsustainable, because too few people have been doing too much of the work. That is the cold truth, and since I have been the President for four years, I accept responsibility for this condition. But I am not admitting defeat. We are pushing on to insure that the new Governing Board will go into the next term with a full contingent of members, a healthy bank account, a clear mission, strong motivation, and sufficient volunteers to carry on our activities. You can help by:

Renewing your membership promptly.
Giving an extra donation if you can.
Joining HSNM if you haven't yet.
Bringing in new members.
Volunteering for a task, committee chair or board position.
Coming to our General Membership Meeting on August 23.
Providing your input on where you think HSNM should be heading, and how best to get there.

Nothing to it, right?

Next month, and the month after, I'll skip the cajoling and resume my more literary/philosophical President's Message. And after that...? This space could be yours!

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