My earliest memory of volunteer work is helping Grandma Thone pack up food for the man that lived under the tree by the freeway. I was about 5 and I was handing her things to put in a bag.
It had been a long day, I don’t know why. I just know she was tired, I remember her breathing hard from the effort and holding tight to the chairs as she moved around the kitchen.
She was born missing part of her leg and the limp she had throughout her life was severe. Add in arthritic knees and too many pounds around the waistline and you can imagine that just getting through the day was an enormous physical challenge.
She had picked up my brother and I from school that day, as she did most days, then drove across town to her house and arrived just after the school bus dropped off three teenage girls in front. Two were sisters and the other had been living there just a few weeks. They were foster children and over the years my grandparents had nearly eighty come through their house. They went school, learned to drive, went to church and celebrated every holiday and birthday with us. As a little kid, I thought of them as cousins.
I don’t know if my brother and I had been a handful that day, or if it was the teenagers that tired her out. I just remember that she asked me to help her pack up the food for the man under the tree.
I had seen her do it before. She would fill a grocery bag with food and plastic forks. Sometimes she even sent her glass baking dish. A 2L of soda usually went, too, along with a roll of paper towels. Grandpa would drive back to the freeway exit, but he never took us kids with him. He just came back a bit later, sometimes a long time later, and he would tell Grandma that the man said thank you.
Grandma didn’t let herself get overwhelmed with the enormity of the homeless problem in our town. She didn’t judge the man by the choices that brought him to living under a tree. She didn’t weigh herself down with the trying to find a solution or helping the thousands of people who needed it. She figured he needed food, so she sent some.
She knew she could help this one, those two and maybe one more. She made a difference for them.
As a kid, I didn’t know my Grandparents were unique in their capacity for giving, for opening their hearts to serve. It is something I marvel at today. It drives me to give back in any way I can to anyone that needs me.
I was so excited to see that the NaBloPoMo theme for September is Service. In an attempt to live up to my grandmother’s legacy, I have always made time for volunteering and find that it is something that feeds my soul in ways I could not have imagined.
I have taught art and Sunday School. I have led 4-H projects, served as the Community Club Leader, and on the County Council. I’m currently County Key Leader, All Star Advisor, and Project Leader for 4-H, and I’m on the Board for a new non-profit called the Acrobatic Gymnastics Foundation.
I’m often asked how I find time for such endeavors and I simply respond that I don’t do dishes or clean the bathrooms – you’d be amazed how much time it frees up! I love volunteer work and hope that you find inspiration in the stories you read this month.