In life, we acquire many titles. There are the ones we’re born with — daughter, niece, granddaughter and sister, for instance — and the ones we obtain through job shifts, like employee, staff reporter, food writer and senior editor. And there are some that come via life choices: mother, for instance.
And then there are others … the ones we take on because of things we decide to say yes to. Agree to teach a Sunday School class? You’re a Sunday School teacher. Get elected to public office? You’re a public official. Join your local volunteer fire department crew? You’re a firefighter … maybe.
A few years ago, I was approached to lead a Girl Scout troop. My friend Michelle and I agreed to do it together, for our daughters. Though it was far outside my realm of comfort, and questionable whether I could possibly have time for it, I said yes anyway. It was important. And a few months later, after a little training and lots of organizing, we held our first meeting with 10 girls, two leaders and one kindly volunteer who helped with our girls’ siblings during the meeting.
Almost immediately, I realized I loved it. From the planning to volunteering as a troop in our community to choosing outings, the girls weren’t just doing crafts and selling cookies, but learning about the world around them and their role in it.
When we moved to Maine last year, I had to leave my troop behind — and so did Paige. But she’s now part of a new troop, and though I am no longer a leader, I am proud of the lessons she learns through her scouting.
Since then, I have found new ways to say “yes.” Most recently, that came when I agreed to coach Paige’s soccer team. After more than six years on the sidelines, watching both my kids play, I have a basic knowledge of the game and its rules.
But coaching? I wasn’t sure I was qualified, and said as much while offering to volunteer. But the league — like many recreational leagues — relies on volunteers to field its teams. Drills can be learned and rules can be studied, but unless people agree to help, there are no teams.
Over the last few years, I have learned something important about volunteering: It’s not about being an expert when you start. It’s about saying “yes,” and being willing to learn what you don’t know — even if it takes time.
This past week, I had the opportunity to learn a little more about another organization that relies on volunteers for its work. Literacy Volunteers of Bangor recently moved into their own offices at 354 Hogan Road. At their open house last week, Executive Director Mary Marin Lyon gave a brief tour of the office and conference area, showing off where volunteers can learn to mentor, and where those in need can get services to help. But she said the number one thing the organization needs is more volunteers.
Really, they need more people to say “yes.”
With a waiting list of people who’d like to learn to speak and read English better, and a variety of ways in which volunteers can help, it’s an opportunity to help people achieve goals — from reading to their kids to getting a high school diploma to becoming a United States citizen. And like other volunteer positions, you don’t need to already be a teacher or know about tutoring.
And while you are mulling over the importance and power of saying “yes,” have a muffin. A Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffin, to be exact.
These muffins are modeled after popular ones available this time of year. Sweet, tender and moist, they have a dollop of sweet cream cheese baked onto them and can be topped with salty pepitas — shelled, roasted pumpkin seeds. A favorite around our house, these muffins won’t last long.
You should know that despite the three bowls it will take to whip ’em up, these are super easy to make and can be ready in under 45 minutes. Eat them hot from the oven or make them a day or two ahead of time to enjoy later.
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tbsp baking powder
- 1 tbsp pumpkin pie spice
- ½ tsp kosher salt
- 2 large eggs, slightly beaten
- 1 cup milk
- 1 cup light brown sugar
- 1 cup pumpkin puree
- ¼ cup vegetable oil
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 3 oz cream cheese
- 2 tbsp sugar
- ¼ cup roasted pepitas, if desired
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a muffin tin with 12 spots with muffin liners.
- In a large mixing bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, pumpkin pie spice and salt.
- In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, brown sugar, pumpkin puree, oil and vanilla extract. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until just combined.
- Divide the batter evenly between the 12 muffin liners. Don’t be afraid to fill the cups to the top.
- In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the cream cheese and sugar. Divide evenly among the muffins, dolloping on top. Sprinkle the tops with pepitas, if desired.
- Place the muffins in the preheated oven and cook until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean (15-20 minutes). Let cool before serving.
- Store in a cool, dry place.