I gave myself a challenge for this year. Each week in 2012, I will volunteer for someone or an organization that helps others less fortunate than myself. For a full explanation of the rules I’ve set for myself, click on over to “The Experiment” page.
Tonight I start my first assignment, helping to serve a meal at the Union Gospel Mission downtown. I signed up a few weeks ago, thinking a soup kitchen is the perfect place to begin an adventure such as this. Whenever someone speaks of helping the homeless, “soup kitchen” jumps to my mind. In my imagination, it looks like the kind of place where Mare Winningham’s character brings her friends to lunch in St. Elmo’s Fire. I want to be Mare Winningham.
“No, Ally Sheedy and Demi Moore, we are eating here today because if I spent a lot of money in a fancy restaurant after helping people on welfare it would look bad.”
I registered to help through the website, Hands On Greater Portland. To quote their mission statement “We connect [volunteers] with opportunities to feed the hungry, teach our children, house the homeless, restore our environment and meet other important community needs.” Sign up was simple, and I immediately felt a sense of accomplishment and worthiness after doing so. I’m going to make a difference in this world!
Now, six hours before I’m due to be downtown, I’m scared. I’m nervous. I couldn’t sleep well last night thinking of all the “what ifs”. Sure, some of you have done stuff like this hundreds of times and are thinking, “What’s the big deal?” And after tonight, I hope I’ll be saying the same thing. But allow me to let you in on a secret…I’m high maintenance. Okay, maybe that’s not such a secret. I like things comfortable, I appreciate knowing exactly what is going to happen at all times, and I hate, hate, hate doing things or going places for the first time. In a perfect world, I’d head to the soup kitchen with a friend who has volunteered before and can tell me exactly what to expect.
Which, I guess, is the purpose of this blog; encouraging others to break out of a comfort zone. One slight problem – I like my comfort zone. I’m content here. If I could only quiet down the voice in my head that is saying, “You have been given much. It’s time to give back.” I think it’s God. It has to be, right? I don’t think my own selfish voice would say such a thing.
So I don’t have a friend going with me. I’m going downtown by myself. I’ll park the car in whatever spot I can find close to NW 3rd and Burnside and apprehensively try to find the correct door to enter. What if I get harassed while walking to the Mission? What if I’m late and I get in trouble? What if no-one comes to the door when I knock? What if the surrounding streets are blocked off to film TNT’s Leverage and Timothy Hutton won’t get out of my way? Where do I put my purse, and will it be safe? What if I have to go to the bathroom? Or – ohmygosh – what if I have to COOK something? You can see why my stomach is in knots.
Eleanor Roosevelt is quoted as saying, “Do one thing everyday that scares you.” Okay, Mrs. First Lady. I hope you’re right about this.