Thursday, September 8, 2011

Serving time

Time isn't really money, despite the famous saying.  When we have more money than another person, giving money to other people can make sense as charity.  But even the richest of us has only 24 hours in a day, and it often feels like the more successful we are, the more demands there are on that finite, precious resource.  Sometimes it really feels like giving my time in service is just serving time.

I have done a lot of different kinds of volunteering in my life, but I've done it in bits and spurts.  There was the year when my daughters had grown to be mostly responsible pre-teens and we hadn't yet adopted our infant son; I volunteered with our local Hospice.  Last year, when I was on sabbatical, I taught math classes one morning a week at a nearby Spanish-American community center.

Giving up time is hard.  There is so much else I want to do, and often volunteering includes inefficient, redundant jobs.  I'm thinking particularly of the time I was with Hospice; one assignment I had was to sit with a patient in the nursing home to keep him company.  But he had nurses and orderlies around him a lot of the day.  Did he really need me?  My being there made his wife feel better about his care, so maybe the answer is yes.  Still, sitting still is hard for me.

On the other hand, volunteering my own time and talents has almost always changed my own life for the better, introducing me to people and experiences that have stuck with me.  I met my honorary daughter through a hospice assignment, and I wouldn't give that up for anything.  And just last week, I got the following beautiful letter from one of my students from last year, telling me she's graduated.

Hola mujer, deseo que haya tenido un dia espectacular y asi mismo se el dia de manana le deseo mucho exito en sus labores diarias
le esccribo para contarle que me gradue de Recepcionista Medico y que estoy practicando en la computadora .
Disculpe que perdi su llamada ayer le agradecemos se recuerde de nosotros, usted sabe que la extranamos.
Her husband (who was also in my class) now has a job driving long-haul trucks, and they've both gotten their GEDs now.  We're going to get together for dinner soon . . . I think I've got myself a new friend for life.

Coming up Friday: Labeling the house with fabric paint
Coming up Saturday:  Snooze alarms and special toys

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