A couple weeks ago I shared my ambivalence toward the fact that the “unemployed [are] busying themselves with voluntarism.” For expressing cynicism toward those giving their hearts and times to good causes, I recently received my just desserts.
At a recent Red Cross training I met a young woman who, like me, volunteers for what we call (awesomely) the Disaster Action Team. Young people who volunteer on DAT are a rarity – our team consists mostly of retired folks who have a lot of time to give and have a bit of an excitement deficit – so we chatted about why we volunteer.
It turns out that this woman, like some of our retired friends, has a bit of time to give – she was laid off not too long ago. So she’s volunteering for the Red Cross and other organizations. As we chatted outside, I noticed she had two nametags on, one for the Red Cross and the other bearing CAP’s logo. It turns out she’s also volunteering for us. (I won’t say where since I didn’t ask her permission to tell this story and I don’t want to identify her.)
It was clear to me in our conversation that voluntarism was an important consolotation for her from the pain of losing her job. In volunteering she not only finds an opportunity for new experiences and relief from boredom, but a chance to give to others with one asset that she finds currently abundant – her time. I didn’t tell her about the article I’d read or the blog post I’d written or how I felt about it. I just listened.
I’m glad to have been reminded that in this economic crisis we’re all in it together, that we should all give with what we have, and that we should be grateful for every unexpected gift – both the unemployed volunteers and the unanticipated lessons – we receive along the way.
Thanks to all of you for all you give.