I’m gobsmacked at how a word or phrase that seems unique on first hearing can become commonplace so quickly. Gobsmack is a perfect example.
I don’t remember exactly what I was reading when I first encountered gobsmack. But it wasn’t that long ago. I was reading something and a person described himself as gobsmacked over something. Although I had a feeling the person meant he was surprised, I had to go look up the word. I found that it means “utterly astonished; astounded; flabbergasted” and that it originated in Britain.
I thought it was interesting and swore to remember this unusual word to use in a column or article at some point. But then a few days later I was half-listening to some morning TV program and I heard the word. Some actor declared that he was gobsmacked at the public’s reaction to his movie. Maybe the word wasn’t so unique.
It turns out it isn’t. I’ve read and heard it about a dozen times since then.
The same thing has happened recently with a phrase—“the STP Syndrome.” The first time I heard the phrase was in a statewide meeting at which someone was bemoaning the difficulty in finding volunteers for a project. The speaker said it was a case of the “STP Syndrome,” and explained that STP does not stand for the fuel additive, but is an acronym for “Same 10 People.”
The speaker went on to explain that so often in an organization it is the same 10 people who show up at meetings, that serve on committees, that do all the work. Just about everyone at the meeting nodded. We had all experienced STP Syndrome.
I thought it was an incredibly clever acronym, but I also had a somewhat negative thought. I’ve been involved on some committees that would be delighted to have 10 people involved. Sadly, STP can also stand for “Same 2 People.”
After hearing the phrase, I thought I’d tuck it away to be used in a future meeting to try to encourage people to get involved, to be part of the STP. Once again though, within a few days I heard the phrase again. As I read about the March 2014 West End visioning meeting at Birch Grove, there it was.
The facilitator of that meeting encouraged the West End leaders to make sure all citizens had a voice. He said community planning is not successful if it is impacted by the STP Syndrome—if only the same 10 people show up at meetings. A good message, but I was disappointed that my great new phrase was already in common use.
Not too disappointed though. Although it sometimes seems like STP Syndrome is rampant, if you take a look around Cook County, you’ll see that voluntarism is alive and well. There are a few boards and committees that are stretched thin, but it’s because there are so many amazing opportunities to give back to our North Shore community.
There are many, many community members who wear multiple hats, serving on an arts or service organization board while also helping out with a trail association or a local church. There are people who act or build sets at the playhouse and people who offer classes at community education or higher education. There are boat builders at North House and interpreters at one of our community’s historical museums. There are people who read to children and people who monitor water conditions in our lakes and rivers. People serve on the PTA and are Girl Scout and Boy Scout and 4-H leaders. Volunteers are there for those who need help at the Violence Prevention Center and for those who need a friend at the Care Center. There are volunteers who rescue animals and volunteers who fight fires and serve as First Responders.
When I stop to think about it, our community is blessed with an abundance of volunteers. We don’t really suffer from the “Same 2 People” or “Same 10 People” syndrome. No, if you take all the folks that volunteer on the myriad boards and committees and organizations in Cook County, we probably have a thousand volunteers or more.
April 10-16 is National Volunteer Week 2016, so it’s a good time to thank these thousand-plus volunteers. Thanks to you for being the “Same 1,000 people.” When I think of all you do, I’m gobsmacked!
The interior joy we feel when we have done a good deed is the nourishment
the soul requires.