One of the things that fits very nicely into my new office-less lifestyle is volunteering. I enjoy volunteering. There’s something about stepping up and doing a job for someone who needs it, who has no means to pay you back, that feels good. I guess it’s one of the things that proves to myself that I’m not a self-centered, money-grubbing, it’s-all-about-me person, at least some of the time!
On Thursdays my husband and I volunteer at a local food bank. This particular food bank is set up like a grocery store. They have tables displaying the available food items we have that day, and people who arrive in need of food are guided through it by one of our volunteers. The volunteer takes the person’s requests, matches it up with the available food, boxes and bags it up for the person, pushes the cart through the maze of tables, and even loads the resulting boxes and bags of food into the person’s car for them.
For five hours, it’s being relentlessly cheerful, having the same conversations about the weather, the latest political news, and the weather – over and over. It’s trying desperately to remember which names go with which faces – faces I see only once a month along with 70-90 other faces – but the people who go along with those faces deserve to be remembered and greeted by name just as much as anybody does. Is this the family that is allergic to wheat? Or to dairy? And will I offend them if I have to ask for what I know is at least the third time?
It’s physically demanding, too. As types of food disappear from the tables, whoever isn’t helping someone right then needs to get on hands and knees on the stone floor and pull another box out from under the table and restock the empty space. Boxes weigh between 20 and 50 lbs, depending on whether they hold bread or canned goods (or something in between). When we run out of items under the tables, replacements have to come from the stock room, which is across the parking lot. And because we share a building with the church that hosts the food bank location, we have to have everything torn down and moved into the stock room when we leave for the night. Even the tables have to be removed and placed in storage.
So, five hours of that. Talking, remembering, thinking, picking up, carrying, loading, pushing, pulling, lifting, stacking. Followed by unstacking, unloading, lowering, pushing, pulling, and putting down – at least this second part requires less thinking and remembering. Then we sweep, put away the paperwork, and put all the chairs back where they belong. By the time I get home I need to take some Tylenol!
On Thursdays I feel old. But it’s totally worth it. This year we added two hens to our laying flock, not because we need them, but because it means we can donate the eggs to this food bank. It means more for us to carry around on Thursdays, but when you know you’re making as much of a difference as one does in a food bank in an economically depressed area, you know it’s worth it. And you do it anyway.