I enjoy looking at the performers when the spotlight is not on them. While one of them is addressing the audience I watch what others do in the background. For the most part they look tired, often exhausted. The smile gone reappears as soon as they are called to perform again. Tonight is not the only night they’ve done and said this. Tonight is another night, another performance, another paycheck.
Performers are paid entertainers. What they do, what they say, what we hear, it’s a job. Not a volunteer job, a paid job.
I have participated in different capacities in a number of running events. What has called my attention each time has been the volunteers and their candid enthusiasm. As a participant, the smile of a kid or adult at a water station has soothed my weariness. The encouragement of a spectator has lifted my spirits. The camera of an amateur photographer has validated my efforts.
Every one of them shares something in common: they are volunteering their time, they chose and wanted to be there, thus their genuine smile.
As a Race Director I have come to appreciate volunteers even more so. In overseeing an event it's evident volunteers are crucial in the runner’s experience. They have been in mine.
As a fundraiser, a person who doesn’t register, but makes a modest donation is as valuable as any registered participant. To put in perspective, in its majority, an entry fee is spent on race operating costs such as shirts, medals, food, port-a-potties, venue, and many other miscellaneous expenses. Furthermore, a person who makes a straight donation does not reap any of the benefits and doesn’t receive any of the perks of running the race. It’s done solely in support. One cannot do without the other and neither contribution is to be dismissed, only appreciated.
So when you see a volunteer smiling while they hand you water, or a person taking pictures, or a cheering spectator, recognize and treasure their contribution. And if committed to a cause and its fund raising efforts, value those small donations. The participants behind the scenes don’t enjoy notoriety. They are not paid performers. They are genuinely there for you.