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.