I have volunteered since I was young. Early on, I sang in church choirs and performed in community theater shows, which are, in their own way, acts of volunteerism. I spent two years or so as a Red Cross Volunteen, donning my pink-and-white-striped pinafore at least a day a week, spending time with folks in the skilled nursing home. For most of my adult life, I was a working mom and time to volunteer at anything non-child-related was nil. I did drive minivans full of kids to various soccer/baseball/softball/football games, but that was more mothering than pure volunteering. Then, as my kids got older and became more independent (sometimes fiercely so), I went back to my comfort zone and became very active (I’m sure some would say too active <G>) in my local community theater (I probably spent as much time at the theater or working on theater-related projects each week as I did on my paying jobs). Then we moved.
The first year and a half of our “new” life was very home-centric. We moved here to be close to my favorite father-in-law, Joe, as he spent his last years of life. So, we packed and unpacked and moved and moved again the belongings of two separate families…my in-laws never moved out of the house we live in, so we had to move their belongings out into the garage in order to move ours into the house, then disburse everything leftover to family, friends and Goodwill. We reshingled buildings and oversaw construction; my husband went wild with the loppers and the chain saw; we managed to stay on speaking terms rehabbing the decks which were rotting away…and we visited Joe at his apartment at least twice a week. Dinner on Wednesday nights and brunch on Sunday mornings were spent in the dining room surrounded by an ever-changing group of senior citizen residents. Everyone knew we were Joe’s son and daughter (they could never remember which of us was Joe’s kin) and it was always great fun to eavesdrop (which wasn’t hard, as almost everyone was hearing impaired and those who were not compensated for those who were). Then Joe died.
Joe was closing in on 99 when he died. The last month of his life was spent with his body and mind actively preparing to die. It was quiet and comfortable and he was warm and cared for…we were so thankful to PALS, who took care of his daily needs, and to hospice, which pitched in at the very end to make things very easy for all of us to see that Joe’s wishes were done.
And then life went on. The only thing that changed in my life was that I got all the time I had been spending with Joe back…and nowhere to spend that time. People reading this will be stunned to learn (and will probably be laughing up their sleeves) that I am a very shy, reserved person. Even with my best, loved friends, it is a huge effort for me to leave my solitude and the familiar. I don’t really want to let people get to know me here, because they might want something from me. Sick, eh? However, on election day, after I had cast my vote, I drifted over to the table containing information on our local library, a tiny little two story house that has been part of my summer life since I first visited my not-yet-in-laws with my not-then-husband in 1974. The tiny library will soon be moving into a capacious donated building and will offer many new programs and lots of new nooks and crannies. I was initially interested in looking at the rooms that looked as if they might accommodate rehearsal space if a group ever wanted to use it. Then I was drawn in by the woman sitting behind the table and somehow, I was telling her that I had put myself through college working at the University of California, Riverside library and that I was an at-least-temporarily-retired person with time on her hands. I left my name, email address and phone number and left with nary a backwards thought.
A couple of days later, I received a call from the woman who schedules volunteers for the library (I think of her as the Head Volunteer) and, lickety-split, I was scheduled for a volunteer shift working the front desk (Circulation) for a couple of hours a week. I am off for my second shift later today and I can’t wait. It turns out that the local library is full of warm, welcoming people and a great source of local gossip and news. And I enjoy being surrounded by books…it gives me shivers.
And all because I raised my hand yet again.