Friday, December 11, 2009

Serves You Right

This is a blog post I wrote for my office blog. It's an important theme to me, so I thought I'd share it here, too. Enjoy.


I think I was 13 the first time I walked into United Way's building on Reading Road.I wasn't the organization's youngest intern, and I wasn't beginning my career as an 8th grader.

No, I was seeking out a volunteer opportunity as part of a confirmation obligation.

My mom took me to the "Community Chest" building, as it was called back in the day, to meet with someone who could place me with an assignment that fit our family's schedule and availability. After all, someone had to drive me to this mythical volunteer opportunity, right?This was a commitment for my parents just as much as it was for me.

My recollection is hazy, but I remember sitting in a staff member's cube (it's killing me that I can't remember who it was, but then again, I was 13) for about 15 minutes or so, then leaving with an assignment at a senior center/nursing home facility in Montgomery.

My first day was scary - I had never really interacted with adults without my parents, and I wasn't quite as confident on my own. I also was a bit uneasy about seeing some of the seniors who needed more care. I didn't know how to communicate with them, and I wasn't sure if they wanted to communicate with me.

Over time, I really enjoyed the experience - making crafts and singing songs with the residents. I also loved it when they told me jokes or let me wheel their chairs to their rooms for them.

Truth be told, I was also a big fan of spending a couple bucks on soda and candy at the nursing home's vending machines.

The experience was my first foray in volunteering, and it helped me realize how important it is to give back what you can.For me, it's time.

Twenty years later, a good chunk of my personal life is dedicated to voluntarism. Just last night, I spent a couple hours singing Christmas carols, stringing lights on a tree and enjoying cupcakes with children staying at a local battered women's shelter. While the moms joined us for the festivities, they all insisted the occasion was a way for the children to have a fun holiday moment in light of personal difficulty.

"Thanks for coming here and letting the kids have a nice evening," said one mom to me as another woman's baby sat in her lap, complete with rosy cheeks.

That's all the thanks I really need when volunteering. In fact, I don't really need any thanks. I'd much prefer a quality, one-on-one moment with an individual with whom I can pay my blessings forward.

And maybe a trip to the vending machine.

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Kate's Random Musings by Kate the Great is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

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