A Volunteer’s Prespective

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“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.”

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“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.”

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“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.”

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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?

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6 Responses to A Volunteer’s Prespective

  1. People judge the poor, even those who volunteer, until they experience extreme deprivation and the sneer excitement of a chance to watch television, even if it’s an old black and white running on a donated generator in a tent beneath an overpass. They don’t consider the terrible shame of standing in a soup line for beans and potatoes, the terrible feeling that the suffering you endure is somehow your fault. You don’t look into the eyes of those who judge you. You can’t really thank someone who doesn’t understand how humiliating it is to eat in a soup kitchen.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. reviewsbyjc says:

    I did volunteer when I was younger and found it to be very rewarding.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Cloud Walker says:

    I’ve come across that, I think they don’t want you to remember them when they are in this situation. On another note, why do people you see everyday always put they head down or do not want eye contact?

    Liked by 1 person

    • msw blog says:

      There could be some truth in that assumption. I’m not sure why people make less eyecontact. Prehaps it’s because many of us spend most of our time looking at our phones and other screens ….

      Liked by 1 person

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