I starting working on this blog back on August 2nd at 7:00am. It is now 10:01pm on Wednesday August 8th. Where does the time go?! It goes crazy, I tell you. It goes crazy.
I am lucky enough to have a steady job in a company that I like with the flexibility to have nights and weekends off. They encourage personal development, community involvement and philanthropy–and not just on the surface! All year long I have automatic deductions from my pay check that go directly to support the local United Way. Sporadically throughout the year I get to participate in varying volunteer opportunities, but every summer we have Global Community Days. We stuff healthy snack packs to deliver to kids in the community, cooking kits for the elderly in assisted living, clean up the neighborhood, etc.
This year, I was privileged enough to be able to volunteer at Crisis Nursery in Minneapolis:
“The mission of the Greater Minneapolis Crisis Nursery is to end child abuse and neglect and create strong, healthy families.”
Two shifts of volunteers completed 9 hours of work to transform the front garden from an almost blank patch of dirt to a riot of colorful plants and paths. The work was hard, but the result was so rewarding.
One of my favorite memories from this experience is from the group tour of the facility at the beginning of the volunteer event. The coordinator was leading us through the halls and I became separated from the group. As I was following to catch up, I came upon a group of children who were obediently lining up against the wall in preparation to go outside to play. They were between 3 and 5 years old, probably. One girl came away from the wall and hugged my legs, giggled and looked up at me. I patted her back (probably awkwardly) and then the whole gaggle of girls came and hugged me and it was a fit of affection and laughter. I was patting backs and looking at the teacher like “what do I do now?” LOL I kindly asked the girls “Aren’t you supposed to be lining up against the wall?” and like magic they dispersed and went against the wall again but kept their giggles. For just a moment it was easy to forget that they were there because their family was in turmoil.
Another event that I participated in recently was Operation Stand Down at Fort Snelling. My mom and I heard about it on Facebook 15 hours before the event and shifted our schedules all around to accommodation it. For a few hours in the evening, we shucked corn, served potatoes, smiled, conversed, and interacted with homeless veterans in the area. It was humbling, to say the least. One gentleman that I met is already stocking up for winter and came hoping to secure a tent, a cot, a blanket, and a can opener. He got a change of clothes and a blanket. Another that I talked to was going to school in the evenings while living in a homeless camp under an overpass. How can I complain about working and going to school? Wouldn’t one think that being homeless and going to school would be the bigger and more stressful challenge? And then there was the charmer. An 85 year old gentleman who wanted to be an architect but recognized that he wouldn’t be able to finish school in time to accomplish anything with his degree–but still appreciated the beauty in the structures around him.
I left that night hot and sweaty from the blazing summer sun, but I returned to a home with a shower and a fan if not air conditioning. And I counted all of my blessings.
Volunteering, for me, is becoming a bigger part of my activities. It just feels so good to lend a helping hand to those who need it most. If you would like to get involved in volunteer activities in your town, just google “volunteering in [the name of your city]” or visit http://www.onebrick.org to find volunteer opportunities in your town where you can do as little or as much as you’d like–and then come back and share your stories 🙂