“A woman touches my shoulder. “I’m sorry to bother you, but do you have girls’ 3T pants?” she asks. Every family in this school lives below the poverty line. The clothes are free. I look at the little girl by her side and give her a whole stack to keep.“I just need two,” she says, taking from the top of the pile without flipping through. She hands the rest back with a smile. “Save them for people who really need them.”
“When I was 16, my church youth group volunteered to serve meals in an inner-city soup kitchen. We washed dishes and doled out beans and mashed potatoes to a long line of homeless men. Most of them didn’t make eye contact or express more than a mumbled thanks. Afterward, the pastor asked for our reflections. The room was silent; and then, finally, one of the girls said softly, “I didn’t really like being here. I guess…” She paused, embarrassed. “…I wanted them to be more grateful.” I cringed—because I’d been thinking the same thing.”
“I was helping out at a holiday giveaway where recipients happened to be extremely enthusiastic. As soon as the doors opened, people bolted to the electronics area to claim the donated TVs. They hoisted them overhead in victory. Some of the volunteers giggled, the way that you chuckle knowingly at children sprinting for cupcakes. (“Wow, don’t get in their way! They’ll knock you over!”) I’m not proud to admit that I smiled along.”
The experts above are from my favorite magazine. I saved this article “How 1 Conversation Forever Changed This Woman’s Perspective on Volunteering” as I have witnessed both sides of this coin. My childhood would have been more hellish without the kindness of strangers. I also share this with my students. I want them to think about why they picked the practicum they did and why they are getting into this profession. Do you volunteer? Why or why not?