Life is pretty much full speed for most everyone and because “we” expect so much from it, it just doesn’t seem likely that giving away precious time will happen anytime soon.
I’m not referring to our leagues of highly skilled volunteers in every corner of the world who keep the lifeblood pumping where the money just doesn’t seem to flow. Whether we are volunteering our time to assist family, friends or society in one aspect or another, those who volunteer know what it’s about.
The new volunteer or maybe the volunteer who doesn’t even know that it’s about to begin need to choose well before committing, so the journey lasts and is a win win for all of us.
My own experience as a newbie volunteer was way back in my late 20’s and started late one night after shift. While watching the visu-com channel on our old cable which was pretty new at the time.
It was the solitary channel on and I was sure that only the desperate would be watching this scrolling junk, you had to read much faster than was comfortable to keep up.
All kinds of community announcements, activities, sports scores from the tyke house league, very few news highlights, garbage day pick up schedule changes because of the long weekend and much more of the same, OMG.
That was until this request for volunteer help came across my tube and it caught my eye for some weird reason. Me a volunteer? Nope.
The worst part was that it moved on before I finished reading it, so I had to wait until the entire show looped through once more to get the phone number to call.
Why was this volunteering so important that I would spend all that time in the wee hours of the morning waiting for the information to come back so I could start giving away my time?
Finally, I had what I needed to make the contact but then my self doubt kicked in and was wondering what I would have to offer these people with my life’s limited experience. Nope, it was a bad idea for sure.
In the end after internalizing for days I made the call and was greeted with a friendly voice who seemed very happy to hear from me, which made it less scary. Once our interview appointment was etched in stone it was time to find out what this community volunteering was all about.
My very first experience came as a volunteer with the city’s Youth Probation and Parole Office helping to supervise young offenders for our over worked probation officers and as it turned out “I was just the guy they were looking for”. Our relationship went on for some five years.
I was assigned to Officer Frank D. and right from the beginning he made me feel welcome and expressed that the work I was doing was important to everyone.
We fell into our routine of getting the job done in what I initially thought was a very complicated system but as the years past my responsibilities changed too.
My clients were becoming the more challenging youth who required more supervision, but Frank was always careful to explain the facts and ask me if I was willing to accept them before being handed over.
What was it that kept me going back for all that time is still with me today and will never be forgotten. I was kind of a fresh face in the world outside of my own and it wasn’t long before I learned the hard facts of what other less fortunate live with everyday. Often with virtually no hope of climbing out and getting away from what they were simply born into.
It wasn’t all bad stuff that’s for sure. We had big successes and plenty of good stories to share, Frank and I. I was very proud of what I gave my free time to.
Now a seasoned vet, one day I was asked to meet with Frank and Jackie F. his boss which surprised me. At the meeting, because “I was just the right guy for the job” they explained they had a client who was about to cross to the adult system in a year or so and as a last-ditch effort to help him, they felt I had a chance.
This was no easy situation. There were some mental health issues, some serious offences had occurred, a lifetime of community services and supervision had taken place and it looked desperate for this individual. This was an extremely high supervision case and if I accepted, would require me to clear away any other work I was doing to concentrate on this one client. They promised and gave me all the support I needed and we rolled on with it.
It was an experience I will never forget. I learned so much about humanity, mental illness, welfare systems, courts, jails, when to be scared, when to call in the troops, empathy, caring, toughness, people who try their best, filth, illiteracy, victims, lack of parenting, max frustration, creating another circle of the same thing!
I realized just now I was holding my breath as I wrote that because it brought back the excitement to use a better word, of those difficult times.
I don’t know if it was just the right time in my life that volunteering made sense and it was something I needed but what I took away from those times helped open my mind to the bigger picture.
My volunteering since those early days branched out and is now part of my fabric.
First time volunteers should step up and find the time. You just never know where it will take you!