October 19, 2011

Giving Back

2002 dales 1st block 2 jpg

There were four of us in the pool today, and the conversations we had were much more interesting than the usual light fluff with breaks for jumping jacks. Among the things we talked about was giving back.

One nurse offered us the premise that most people don’t volunteer. I must admit that I didn’t begin volunteering until I was almost thirty. My parents didn’t volunteer at anything…it’s hard for a drunk to volunteer at something that might take them away from their bottles. Yet my sober grandparents didn’t volunteer either. Did anyone in my neighborhood volunteer beyond church? I don’t think so.

Yet it was one of the kids across the street, all grown up, that taught me that volunteering was a good thing.

A slough is a filtering device. River water flows downstream, through a myriad of sand, plant, and dirt filled channels arriving at the sea, or bay, or lake, as cleaner water. One of our local sloughs had become a playground for off road vehicles, a place to dump dirt, tires, and tree trimmings in the end devolving into just a patch of sewage filled dirt by the sea. My childhood friend Mike, a biologist, knew that this slough needed cleaning and saving. He began to do this single handedly. We believed him and helped. Others, like my friend Jo, joined us.

One day I found myself shovel in hand clearing out a ditch. The next day, it seemed, I was shuttling a state senator about the sloughs in a canoe. Next thing I knew I’d faded into madness just as Patricia Nixon was helping to open the sloughs as a State Park.

Ever since I found myself volunteering. Helping unload trucks at a loading dock fed the homeless. That was a great job. The Aids Quilt workshops were run by Sister Margaret, and she taught me how to listen as well as how to schlep all sorts of stuff. That too was a place I fit well. Sometimes the jobs weren’t a good fit. The local library politics didn’t fit well. The American Cancer Society Discovery Shop is a very good fit.

Donations as well as volunteer numbers are down just as there is a greater need.
Personally, it’s a small thing I do for the Cancer Society in memory of my father, mother, grandmother, Jo, Delpha, G’s dad John, Janie, Lee, Marion B, Kay, and now Mikey who is still with us and on his way to Paris. I only work a three hour shift, but being there helps me feel balanced.


  1. I didn't volunteer until I became an adult. It was not something I learned from my family or community. Glad that's all changed now. Wish I could do more.

  2. I was volunteer crazy most of my life. I will get back to it after I finish this degree. Meanwhile, I do what I can with donations. It is very rewarding to be a volunteer. Dianne

  3. I have volunteered all my life, off and on, usually through groups such as school or organizations. Nothing with any continuity or real bravery, but small stuff. It has always been easier for me to give money...but now that I am retired I do a little more. I need to be braver and go for something more dynamic...except the need to take care of my precious grandchildren is an interruption as I do volunteer for that quite often.

  4. The value of volunteering is beyond measure. I have worked in several places where we needed volunteers and appreciated what they could do for us.

    I was volunteering by the time I was ten. I loved the feeling of being helpful as I learned things. Two of my volunteer "jobs" led to gainful employment.

    I had always hoped to volunteer again when I retired. So far I haven't found any openings that don't require someone physically stronger -- or else driving that I can't do.

  5. Husband and I have considered volunteering but still haven't found the right spot. We continue to look and hope to find our place soon.

  6. It's a fine way to find balance. Good for you. Yes, I've volunteered through my kids' school for many years... from the time my older one was in Kindergarten until my younger one moved on to middle school. I organized more fundraising events than I can count and loved doing it. But when those days were done, so was I. You've got me thinking though.. it would be good to get back into volunteer mode. I'll have to look into that. Thanks. :)


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Peter in front of a wall sculpture. We were invited up to Peter Knego’s home to see the latest installation.   Abstract flat ...