In June 2009, former Associate Justice David Souter retired from the Supreme Court of the United States. In his letter of farewell to his colleagues of nearly two decades he opened with the following “…I will only try to leave you with some sense of what our common service has meant to me.”. In just three words, “our common service”, Souter expresses one of the most valuable rewards for volunteering. From the member considering joining their first committee, to a seasoned veteran thinking of stepping up to a leadership position, this unique reward may be difficult for associations to articulate.
At the local, state, and national levels, each day, individual members come together to work towards a common goal. This collective is continually working to protect homeownership, private property rights, uphold the Code of Ethics as well as industry standards, while creating an association than can serve the changing needs of REALTORS®. This is the common service Souter spoke of. It isn’t the free committee lunches, or the REALTOR® store giveaways, but rather it is a devotion to an industry that is described in the Preamble to the Code of Ethics as “…beyond ordinary commerce”. Within this service lies the chance to roll up shirt sleeves and be part of something larger than the individual member. The sense of “common service” and the relationships that derive from meaningful work together is what brings passionate volunteer members back year after year to serve again.
Members may initially become engaged on a single issue, program or committee, but by getting involved they are joining the long line of common service that has extended since the first association down to today’s volunteers. By virtue of their service, members position our associations to best serve the membership and wider community, for today and into the future. The REALTORS® of tomorrow will enter an industry that is not the same as it is today. Future friends and colleagues that will, as their predecessors did, enter into the same bond, to serve and protect something that is “beyond ordinary commerce”, and commit themselves to “…a common service…”.
Association staff get a front row seat to witness this phenomenon day after day, the coming together of the whole that is greater than the individual parts. We see the new colleagues met, life-long friendships being formed, and the unique link of service forever created between people that were exchanging business cards not long ago. We see this but cannot always articulate it to potential volunteers. Only an engaged member sharing their experience with serving can truly begin to put to words to the intangible rewards they reaped. However, even this primary source falls short. It is because these rewards, by their very nature cannot ever be fully described, they must be felt and experienced.
Chief Operating Officer
Raleigh Regional Association of REALTORS®