Abundance of volunteer roles should be examined

December 24, 2012

As the year's end approaches, perhaps you want to take Sheri’s retirement advice. She makes a list of all of her volunteer jobs and activities and then asks herself if she is really enjoying them or if she is stressed out because of it. Then she crosses off the ones that took too much time and energy. Love this reflection. Do you volunteer because you feel obligated or because you really want to? Any time you join any organization, they will take as many hours as you want to give, but if you are like Sheri, setting limits is the key. Before you say “I can do that,” stop and think first. “Even a fish has sense enough to keep its mouth shut once in a while.” No offense, but churches are one of the most adept at pulling us into some committee or having us baking lemon bars at 2 a.m. cause they were just “so wonderful last year!”  Church folk are busier than a long-tailed cat in a room filled with rocking chairs. Yet truly, those busy hands help so many in need that sometimes no is not an option.

Last week I volunteered as a cashier for the first time at All Saints' Thrift shop. I loved it! I met the wife of the director of a high school musical buying costumes for “Amadeus” and the famous Dale Dunning from Jusst Sooup buying, what else? Soup bowls! I dropped off my donation first, and by the time I finished my shift, I bought more stuff. My husband has been trying to put me on a retirement budget, but it is not working. I really needed that large platter for a cheese assortment and a pillar candle. Total cost: $8. I wanted to buy an antique nanny cradle from 1840 which cost $800. We don’t even have grandchildren yet, but I could imagine rocking in it anyway and hoping for a baby stork.

I phoned my best friend Carolyn, my antiques partner for over 30 years, and asked her why she thought we were both so materialistic. She said, “Me? Materialistic?” My mouth dropped open because I realized she was serious. Carolyn has a magnificent home with heirloom furniture, art work and an extensive collection of fine silver. “What is your definition of materialistic?” I asked. “Someone who buys designer handbags that cost $4,000. I collect old things.”  I didn’t argue with her logic, but I was thinking about that tea towel I bought for her in Lewes which is embroidered with this saying: “I know I am in my own little world but I am happy because people understand me here.”

Check out the area thrift stores, because the money benefits the community and you can be happy there because people understand you there.

Helen from Lewes shared her thoughts with me about her retirement. “I love it,” she says, “but the hard part is how other people look at you. Now that I have gray hair and wrinkles, I seem to have lost my authority.” Helen was a physical therapist for most of her life. Speaking about all of the young people she treated, she writes, “I gave them back their functionality and their ability to walk, and now sometimes I don’t even get eye contact.”  I appreciated Helen’s assessment of how older people are often treated.

The other day I was in line to pick up a prescription in Walgreens, and the cashier asked a senior citizen for her phone number. She became flustered and said she didn't remember. I loved what happened next. The young employee said, “Don’t worry. I can look it up for you.”  Several of us in line smiled and waited our turn.

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