Sunday, February 25, 2007


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Last week I did the volunteer thing again. For inquiring minds, this was basically helping serve food to people.

The last time I did this I was a bit dismayed by my lack of feeling while doing this. This time…I also did not feel a whole lot while working there. That was mostly because I was very busy the whole time trying to put green beans onto a try. It turns out that I'm not very good at doing that.

A friend I was there with remarked that it felt better than the last time: the last time he was basically ensuring that people came in a little at a time instead of all at once. He was right in that it certainly felt like I had done more: we were working behind the counter, putting food on trays. It was hot and I was rushed the whole time because it seemed like they were constantly waiting for me. I think this was mostly because I was so damn slow with the green beans.

While I definitely felt like I had done some work, in some ways it was worse than before: I was so busy putting food on trays that I could not look up at the people we were serving. This time, I only knew about them when someone would ask for vegetables only. Fortunately, the supply of green beans held out for the night.

The next day, however, I realized that everyone who had been there had helped so that we could serve more people. Without someone to limit the number of people coming in, we would have been thronged and nobody would have been able to sit down to eat. With someone to hand out trays, we were able to get more people through. And with someone putting green beans on a try, you could get more trays of food to people.

Yes, I was very replaceable in the whole thing: just about anyone can put food on a tray. But I was there and other people were not. If I had not been there, they would have served fewer people.

I remember seeing a video about the marines where the soldiers had been encouraged to relinquish a part of their identity by referring to themselves as "this marine" or "this soldier." At the time I had found the notion a bit disturbing. It sounded a bit too mindless for people who might have to make difficult moral decisions in very unforgiving situations.

The person who had suggested that people perform community service talked about it as "the giving of self." I had thought of this more as me giving time to help out. Giving time is like giving a part of your life. I had not thought of it as giving a part of my identity, but while I was working there, I was pretty much a mindless, green bean serving machine. I later realized that is was more of giving up myself to help with the work, if only for a little while.

Like the people in the video I had seen, to help, I really had to submerge my ego for a time and become part of a whole. I'm not sure if that's what the person who had suggested this meant, but afterwards I felt like I had been part of a community.

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Whatever said...

Thanks to everyone who responded to last week's entry. I'm feeling much, much better now. I was thinking about writing about psuedaphed (sp), but I figured I had given blathered enough about that sort of thing last week :-)

Blue Panther said...

Well, I havent done this kind of work but I think, it should be good.
One does learn a few things, especially humility.

Glad to hear that you are feeling better!

stev said...

glad that you feel that you had contributed to community. and really sometimes thats all that matters.

not everythings going to be wonderful or perfect. esp if its the sense of organizing something that in the best of light will only last for a little while... or until the next meal.

still. what remains is whats we've given. (i think). sides its very 'green' for your soul :)

John Kaiser said...

Giving of ourselves often means suspending our ego for a while. The humble man serves the best, while the proud man serves only himself.

MsDemmie said...

What a wonderful post .........

I think john has summed it up brilliantly.

Goes away to think on that after wishing you a belated Happy BYB Sunday.

Nancyrowina said...

Nice post.

Happy BYB Sunday.

Kuanyin said...

Happy BYB Sunday...well written post!