It is difficult to write about today’s first for a few reasons. My oldest son, E, and I spent the evening volunteering at a homeless shelter. We were to check in individuals as they arrived.
Why is this hard to write about? Typically my blogs are totally from my perspective — these are my firsts. At the risk of sounding egotistical, it’s about me and my way of looking at things. However, today’s first is so not about me. Often when we volunteer, it all still comes back to us — here’s what I learned, here’s what I think, here’s what I need to apply to my life, I, I, I — but that’s not what should be important. Yes, I can tell you how my impressions — my preconceived notions — were changed, but that still centers on me. And, again, it’s not about me. It’s about their stories….the people that were there; the people that stay there every night. It’s also hard to write about volunteering without it sounding like a solicitation for praise, but that again turns the focus back on the wrong person.
Tonight’s first was about a new experience, but it was so much more than just novelty. My husband and I often rack our brain for ways we can help our children become compassionate, empathetic, kind, and grateful. But there comes a time when talk is ineffective. One must live that life, not talk about it. And we could donate things …. money, food, supplies, but that, too, isn’t as effective as donating time. Therefore, tonight my son joined me for this first.
On the way there, E told me he was nervous. He was uncertain of the people he would be around. Like all of us, he had preconceived notions of what “homeless” looks like. He spent some of his welcoming our guests, running light errands fetching things, and other time was spent babysitting and playing with the children of the other volunteers, and that was an important role. Occupying those children meant others could volunteer serving food.
As we were leaving, he said he was surprised at the people he met. Hearing pieces of their stories helped him to overcome stereotypes. He also said he had a great time and wants us to go back regularly. On our trip home we could not stop talking about our gratitude and the silliness of our daily complaints.
I definitely believe this is a first that will not be a last. I look forward to going again with E. I have a hard time believing there is a more meaningful way to spend some quality parent-child time.