Well, I completed my volunteering requirements (5 hours) yesterday. I did the Feed My Starving Children for two hours, went to dance class, went home and then went with my friends to PADS, which is a shelter organization to feed homeless people. That was three hours. So while I have many life lessons to learn if I would like to continue and to grow and to be a productive member of society, I still learned something, and I’m pretty sure these lessons will help me on the long run. Will I continue to make the same mistakes? Definitely. Will I learn to stop bragging on this blog? Nope, I’m too much of an attention whore to do that. But for now, here are the lessons that I learned so far from volunteering.
1. Volunteering gives you some perspective on how lucky you are.
When I was at Feed My Starving Children, there were more families and little kids within those families than I cared to count. Wherever I looked, there was a family with young children, and they were the only ones who actually came here without the need to get a form signed. When I was labeling the food bags, I was talking to a woman who said that she always brought her kids to make them appreciate what they had. She had mentioned that her kids were complaining about being hungry and that she told them that now they know how the poor starving kids were feeling. That was pretty profound for me because no matter how bad things are, my parents still have enough money for always having food in the house, and even to go shopping almost every week. That kind of shit makes me feel really guilty, and trust me, I hate feeling guilty. What also made me feel guilty, is that I’m just now starting to volunteer, and with another annoying twinge, it took an assignment to make me do it. So yes, it’s a huge and very needed slap in the face. Still hurts.
2. You will always put your foot in your mouth, and no matter how hard you try you will offend somebody.
At PADS, my friends and I spent most of the time caring for two children. The man who had the baby joked around with us, and I swear to God, every hour I took an unfavorable thought towards children and it raced out of my mouth in two seconds. Thankfully, there were three hours left but I still said at least five things that could be interpreted really badly, and I’m seriously scared to be near any young children again. Did I try very hard to be an amazing babysitter? Well, no, I’m sorry to say. I mostly avoided the whole playing with the child thing because A. I don’t know the child, and B. I hate talking like a baby, and since the child doesn’t belong to me, I have no right talking in that way to a child that does not share my DNA, because I have no idea how his parents raise him. And no matter what you do, people will complain to you about the stuff that you say, even if you’re just a messenger. Case in point, my friends and I picked out three family friendly movies for the people to watch, as is the policy of the charity, and this old man started complaining and blaming me for it, and giving me a lecture about how we worship children too much (to which I sorta agreed) and it really intimidated me. Thankfully, the woman who told us the policy stepped in. But still, the lesson that I learned is this: you will find that people will complain more to the messengers than to the people who make the policies. The thing that pisses me off most is this: I was not as pissed off as I probably should have been, but I shrugged it off. Either I’m growing up or I’m reading way too many customer service horror stories.
And finally (for now) 3. You can never do enough to help.
While this seems a little hopeful, it isn’t for me. Sure, I will most definitely help as much as I possibly can and even let this influence my personal life, I’m wondering if we ever can understand what those people are going through. I was horrified to find a pregnant woman in the line for a meal. You can make the meals, you can take care of the kids, you can donate and you can give out hand outs, what people really need are jobs. And the fact is, our economy sickens me to my very core. These caring people, these people who are made to do with a hot meal for six months and a bed for a night, and can laugh and joke so easily, are in dire need of help that will last more. I wonder if any shelters actually do job training, and I’m wondering if we will stop being so awful as to resort to other countries to make things that could just as well be made in America. I’m seriously wondering how selfish (not only us) a lot of countries are, and the sad thing is, they always were and the biggest changes we can make are through legislation and job creation. But should we give up? Hell no. We need awareness and we need to work hard to make small, but noticeable changes that may not add up too much now, but will in the future, but only if we work hard and care about each other. These words that I’m writing won’t add up to much unless you experienced at least some volunteer work, and these words aren’t terribly original, but in this case, they shouldn’t. People need to realize that caring and cooperation may not be “individual” but they are important to note.
Now, excuse me, there are volunteer sign up sheets with my name on them.