Friday, January 27, 2012

Searching to Serve

As a teenager, I did a fair amount of regular community service – and it wasn’t all just to soup up my college applications. I was souping up my soul.

My soul and I haven’t had much luck finding a regular, tolerable adult volunteer gig, but we haven’t stopped trying. Yesterday was “Monthly Volunteer Night” at a local chapter of a national non-profit association. I can now kiss this place goodbye too. All they should expect from me in the future is an annual check in the mail, if that.

There I was, stuffing envelopes in a cramped conference room with seven others. By the time I showed up, these others had quite a system and rapport going. We got to hear all about the alternative liberal arts colleges that a couple of them went to. I already know what goes on at those schools, so I wasn’t learning anything new. In fact, Northeasterners constantly assume that I’m a product of one of those schools. I don’t even like pot, but I apparently look and act like someone who does.

Since nobody stepped up to formally train me, I grabbed a stack of letters and went to work.

“You’re putting the labels on like that?” I heard someone ask. The room went silent. I eventually snapped out of my deep concentration enough to look up. She was talking to me.


“Oh. Uh, OK. From over here, it looked like you were doing something else. My eyes must be tired.”

She later dropped the bomb that she’s friends with Kandi (not NeNe) from the Real Housewives of Atlanta.

A few minutes later, I noticed there were cranberry-colored streaks on the fronts of some of the envelopes I was labeling. Those stains had to be coming from my hands. Here we really go - was it blood? Even better – the streaks were from my cheap nail polish that I’d been having technical difficulties with all day. Had to make sure Kandi’s Yankee friend didn’t catch wind of this one.

“So what’s everyone’s favorite ice cream?” someone asked.

Jesus, can I take my stack into another room, or into the hallway or the bathroom, and get these envelopes stuffed there? Don’t ask me a question like that unless the ice cream is on its way.

I really belong at an animal shelter a few hours a week, but I know I’d get too emotionally invested and end up carrying out a dog, cat, or rabbit at the end of every shift. And, from what I understand, there’s a mandatory T-shirt I’d have to wear.


  1. For years I did relentless volunteering, mostly cooking, and with very nice people I enjoyed being with. But one day, the little inner voice said, I can't do this anymore, at least not at present. I have a feeling that one day I will return to volunteering, but that letter-stuffing thing...that's painful.

  2. I've been trying to get registered as a volunteer at Planned Parenthood, but I can't get anyone to call me back. I may just march in there one day.

    Now that my kids are in school, I do most of my volunteer work there while ignoring the snippy PTA moms.

  3. I volunteered at a horse rescue, and ended up taking my pony, Matthias, home. Does the NYPD allow volunteers to help with their horses? You could get nice and smelly, but you wouldn't have the temptation to take one of their gentle giants home.

  4. Volunteering is a slippery slope. After years of being involved in one cause or another I decided to work on myself. Eventually I'll be back out there, but I expect to have to answer all sorts of silly questions -- it's part and parcel of the experience.