As we pulled up in our packed van, I could see all the warning signs. People milling about, a sense of tension. A few feet tapped nervously, with arms closely crossed, signalling the beginnings of battle. I took a deep breath and tried to find my "happy place" for a fleeting moment. It was time to enter the fray. Earth Fair 2012. May God have mercy on our souls.
Don't get me wrong. We adore this venue. It's not often that we can stand on our achievements in our media; allowing people to see right away that we are Green. I don't have to worry about being compared with mass produced stuffed animals, manufactured in Asia, by children in sweat shop conditions.
But setting up for this show.... getting our spaces.... dear lord.
We swarmed the poor volunteer like chickens at feeding time. Some of us had pre-approved needs that had gone through the proper channels. Some people preferred the Conquistador method. (This consists of slamming down an imaginary flag, claiming territory in a loud voice and then participating in the slaughter of any people that come near). Then, the cries of the dreaded d'Enfant Terrible. Otherwise known as the "full grown adult indulging in a childish tantrum."
I watched in horror and listened in awe. Several individuals must have been wearing Huggies diapers for the tantrum they threw. I had front row seats as the volunteer was verbally assaulted, called names and generally treated like a used diaper wipe.
Have you ever volunteered? I mean, REALLY volunteered? I am not talking about raising your hand and offering to bring napkins and teabags to the next meeting. I mean, the "roll up your sleeves, get down and dirty" with no pay or credit at the end of the day, save the feeling that comes with making a difference in the world.
I have. In my 46 years I have done work that I hope will earn me a few extra points when I approach the Pearly Gates. I washed plates, served food and was a general kitchen slave for an exhausting 10 hours a day, for a full week at Camp Easter Seals when I was in high school. I have donated my time to talk about my career choices for students. I have shown women with cancer how to tie head wraps and re-draw eyebrows thinned by chemo. Back in my "young and cute" days, I even dressed as a barroom floozy in a ruffled skirt and feathered headpiece and "arrested" people for my community Jail and Bail for the Cancer Society. Even now, I am dusting off my Renaissance costume in order to show 7th grade students how wool was picked, carded and spun in the 16th century.
Obviously, volunteer work means just that. You volunteer to NOT get paid. But it goes beyond that. You also volunteer to put yourself last and your cause first. You accept that you are not going to be singled out and have a ticker tape parade in your honor. You are even willing to put yourself in line of fire. It takes an amazing person to do that.
So, here is the challenge: get involved. Teach a class. Hold a sign. Pick up trash. Hold a hand. Do something. Be part of the solution, not part of the problem. You won't regret it.
So, this post is for you Melissa. You are a class act.