I've Come Out of Hiding
Today I officially came out of hiding with regards to volunteering. Ryan and I used to volunteer regularly with various ministries and groups. When I quit my first 'big girl job' I helped out quite a bit with the Rescue Mission; I'd take homeless folks to doctor appointments, help them find day jobs to earn some cash, and even help with luncheons to recruit new volunteers. I wasn't an expert at it, but I definitely learned a lot in six months. Since then, however, I haven't had much face time with those in need.
A few weeks ago I saw an email asking for volunteers for the Klothes for Kids distribution. I knew a little about this organization and have always given to it in years past, but I've never actually gone and done anything. Since I recently went part time (I have every Friday off...HUGE BLESSING!!!), I decided that it was time to come out of hiding from the volunteer world. I will admit, I was super anxious about it. Ryan kept telling me that it was going to be fine and I shouldn't be nervous, but I couldn't help it.
I got up this morning, dressed, and hit the road. Lane was the only one already awake. (Yes. Ryan is amazing and got the kids dressed and delivered to their schools before going to work. He's awesome and supportive and I love him like you have no idea.) I got there at 7:00, checked in, and waited for orientation. Once we were instructed how everything would be run, parents, grandparents, and children started arriving. From 8:30-12:00 I helped pick out clothes and supplies for nine children. Here's a little bit on how each family touched my heart. As well as some things I learned or want to pass on to people who are thinking of volunteering. Remember, I'm no expert, and I'm not preaching, BUT these are things I think might make a difference.
My first family had five children but only two in school (the oldest, I later found out, was 18, and the youngest was nine months). The little boy LOVED Spiderman so after we selected his uniforms, we found him some play clothes that happened to have Spiderman on the shirts and even a Spiderman lunchbox (God is good, yes?!?!). He was a super happy boy. His sister was going into the 4th grade and wore a size 11 shoe. A ladies 11. She was kind of timid about it, but I told her that I too had a large foot and she was now officially a 'sister of the ski'. Her mother laughed with us. While their mother was updating their school information, I asked them about their schools and teachers and just tried to make small talk. I must admit, she took a serious liking to me. I asked her if she'd met her teacher yet and she said, "Not yet, but I know her name. She's white, but they say she's real nice."
My second family was a mother with five children, four in school. We were able to find everything for the four kids, but the four year old girl kept asking where her clothes were. The mother kept telling her that this was for school stuff and she didn't need school stuff yet. Each time she heard this I saw disappointment in her face. While picking out the socks and underwear for the kids, the 'undies captain' told me to take her to the end of the table and let her pick out some toddler socks and undies. I asked the little girl if she wanted some new underwear (I have a secret hate of the word 'panties'). Her brother spoke up and said, "A LOVES colored panties!"
Okay, Kelley, suck it up, and get over your issues.
So I knelt down and asked, "A, would you like to pick out some new panties?" You guys, I saw that girl's face light up like nobody's business.
Next was a mother that didn't have her son with her, but had a pretty good idea of what he would like. It actually made it fairly easy to pick out clothes for him. At this point, the inventory was running thin so we had to improvise (it was technically a girl's shirt, but you couldn't tell). :-)
My next family was a single mother and her son. She was using a cane to walk. She later told me that she normally has a scooter chair, but it was broken. We had a hard time finding his size because he'd gained some weight over the summer. While I had him try on the pants (I finally found a Husky size...God is so good!), I noticed that I never did see his underwear band. When we made it to the underwear table, she told me that with the weight he'd gained over the summer, he kept complaining that his underwear was too tight so he just stopped wearing it.
At 12:00 my shift was over. I got in the car, grabbed some lunch, and went to Target where I realized how often I don't realize how easy it is for me to purchase things for my children. Just the other day I grabbed a pack of underwear for Lane because...well...it's been a while since he's gotten new ones, and he could probably use some new ones, right? It's not a big deal for us, but for other families it is. I pray that I stay conscious of this. I also pray that I continue to be able to volunteer more in the future.
So...if you're thinking of helping out somewhere, here are a few tips (my own).
- Leave the phone in the car. Whatever ministry or organization you're helping with needs your full attention. If you need to know anything (like school uniform colors) the group should have all the information for you. If you have a real reason to keep your phone with you, don't pull it out and check it while you're with families. It's rude and tells them that they aren't worthy of your full attention.
- DON'T HAVE YOUR EAR BUDS IN WHILE VOLUNTEERING WITH PEOPLE.
- Love on the people. I hugged every child and almost every parent. Granted, I could tell some of the parents weren't the lovey type. And that was okay. I still told them I would be thinking about and praying for them on Tuesday (when school starts) and throughout the year. Most of these people are accustomed to people handing them things and ushering them forward. Don't be one of those people. Give them special attention. Love them.
- Wear comfortable but simple clothes. Don't wear your Sorrelli. Yes, it's beautiful, but it's intimidating to those that can't afford new underwear. Wear your sneakers and keep it simple. Be approachable.
- Relate to them in some way. The size 11 shoe girl quickly became my best friend, especially after I crowned her a "sister of the ski".
- If you have to, stretch the rules. We were told that kids would get to pick one of two pairs of shoes. They "couldn't be picky" (and I get it, I really do). One of the boys was given a pair that were in good condition, but when he tried them on, the mother noticed a hole in the toe where the stitching had come undone. She didn't say anything about it, but I could tell she was a little disappointed (this was a seven year old that was ROUGH on his shoes). When he took them off, I handed them back and said, "I think these are a little too snug for him. Let's try a different brand."
Full disclosure, I'm no expert at volunteering or anything of the sort. This is what I took away from today as well as what I already knew (I'll admit, it ain't much). Yes, this post was way too long and (I'll admit) boring. But...maybe I've planted a seed for you to give to a group or ministry.
Whether it be time, talents, or gifts, people need you.
Your community needs you.
Your God needs you.