Thursday, September 24, 2009

Why I Volunteer

I do a lot of volunteer work. I do about 30 hours a week of volunteer work as a matter of fact. I don't say that to toot my own horn. I have an ulterior motive for my altruistic ways. It just makes me feel good. I feel almost guilty that it make me feel so good. It is almost like I don't even care what the cause is, I just love to volunteer for it. Well, that is not exactly true, because I do pick my volunteer opportunities carefully and I love all the places and organizations I volunteer for. For the past 10 years I have concentrated most of my volunteer activities at the public schools my children attend. This year they are in three different schools so it gives me a great opportunity to make a difference to a wider variety of students and staff. I love everyone at all three school, but my heart will always belong to the elementary school where my youngest attends fifth grade. All four of my kids have attended from kindergarten through fifth grade at the school and I have loved every minute of ever hour I've spent volunteering there.

This morning was a typical volunteer day for me. My daughter arranged a ride for herself to get to high school, which is a couple of miles away and starts an hour and a half later than the elementary school. This would allow me to drop my two middle school kids off a bit early and be at the elementary school with my youngest before the bell rang so that I could help out with Picture Day. As luck would have it, it was raining this morning and a two minute drive to the middle school took more like 15. I was in a rush when I arrived at the elementary school. The carpool line was really long, so I decided to circumvent the line and proceed to the parking lot. I signalled well in advance so that people would know that I was turning. As I made my turn, I heard a horn honking at me. I didn't think much of it because I just figured someone wasn't aware that I wasn't cutting in line, but only going around them to park. No big deal. I parked and got out of the car. As I was closing my car door an angry dad yelled at me, as he was getting his daughter out of the car "Hey, you cut me off back there!" I said "No, I didn't I had my signal on". He claimed I didn't and proceeded to tell me that if I did it again he would call the police on me. I just said "You know what, I'm not going to get into it" and walked into the building.

Later on I saw the parent telling the Principal about the incendent. Oh, well, what can you do, right? After all these years I just hoped that the Principal would understand that I am not a rude driver who cuts people off in the school parking lot. I mean, I do yell at people when I drive, but I don't make jestures or cut people off, especially in the SCHOOL PARKING LOT - that is another journal altogether. I have to show my face around that school, I love it there, I wouldn't do something stupid in the parking lot. I just hoped the Principal knew that. Luckily she did.

Fast forward a couple (four) hours into the ordeal that is picture day at an elementary school to the reason I love volunteering so much. I was still funneling the children onto the cafeteria stage when one of the grades came in to eat their lunches. I look over to my right and a cute little girl (the daughter of the man who had reamed me out) motioned for me to come over to her. I went over, figuring she needed help opening her milk - a frequent need for children her age. The kids are used to seeing me there and most think I work there, so they think nothing of asking me to do a task for them. So, I said "What do you need, sweetie?". She said to me "I just wanted to say I am sorry my daddy yelled at you this morning." I was flabbergasted. I said "Oh, sweetie, it's okay, no big deal, see I'm fine now." And then this little girl with big brown eyes looked at me and said "I just wanted to apologize because I knew my daddy wouldn't." O.My.Goodness. That broke my heart into a million pieces.

Incidents like that cement my belief that one person can make a difference in a child's life. Over the years I have had similar incidences, although not quite so dramatic happen with various students. I have felt their need and have taken the extra time to seek them out and say hi to them, ask about their day, look them in the eye and tell them they rock. There are kids out there, even in wealthy suburbs who are starving for this kind of attention. It is a tragedy that is happening at every school in every city across the nation. I have committed to standing in the gap for these children. Maybe, just maybe when they are needing a little pick me up, they will recall that I high fived them in the hall, remembered their name and said something positive to them about themselves. It may not seem like much, but it is the least I can do.

Everyone should know the joy that volunteering brings to your life. There really is nothing like it in the world. I don't want any kudos for the work that I do without getting paid. The benefits are so great and it makes me so happy that it really wouldn't be fair to get paid for it anyway. I never plan to stop.