I have volunteered at different places for as long as I can remember. That was actually what I had studied in graduate school. Unfortunately, because the pay is dismally poor, I have had to have a paying job that allows me to live and do my volunteering on the side.
I’ve always come away from volunteering believing that it has always done much more for me than those I came to help.
I have no interest in being the volunteer in a museum, or on the board of some fancy-schmancy rich charity.
I cannot remember any time coming away from volunteering without feeling really good. I have worked in such places as Women’s shelters, Goodwill, Salvation Army, Hospitals, Burn units, Alzheimer daycare…many more I can’t remember. I have NEVER, NEVER come upon a mean, cruel, disrespectful person in any place I have volunteered. I’m not sure why that is. I mean, basically, in most instances, life has been all around pretty rough on most of these people and if anyone has a reason for a poor attitude, it would be them. And I wouldn’t blame them.
Actually, I must disagree on one point: Anytime I have done an OFFICE volunteer job, the people usually treated me pretty crappy. Instead of being grateful to have someone helping them out with their crummy paperwork, they treated me as little more than an inconvenience.
Anyway, I wanted to relate one particular experience of working in setting up a new Women’s Shelter for homeless and battered women.
I was told that we volunteers would be decorating the rooms that would be used for the womena nd their families. I thought ‘oh no’! Decorating is not my forte and I was so afraid of not making it nice enough. We had bags and bags of donated NEW items, such as comforters and lamps, pictures, and we could decorate any way we wanted. We had about 30 roooms to clean and decorate.
Thankfully, I was teamed with a young woman who seemed to be a professional decorator. She was so tidy compared to the sloppy way I arrived to work. We soon fell into a proper working rhythm, whereby I handled the big stuff: picking out the comforter, hanging a picture. She did all the little things that really make a place cozy. Putting the lamp in just the right place; putting little toys for children in a basket. I wondered how she had such a good eye. We didn’t really talk much. There was just too much to do.
After we’d been working together about 5 hours and we were exhausted and took a couple of minutes off, I asked her how she knew so much about decorating?
She looked at me and said, “I don’t, really. I’m going to be living here and I just want to make it nice for all of us.”