Library Diva's Guide to Volunteering…

{April 8, 2011}   It is decidedly so…

I have a magic eight ball in my office. I think it was mine when I was little so the triangle no longer floats around in suspension…it kinda gloops and sticks and well, to be’s pretty thick in there through that little window.

I don’t know exactly what happened along the way but I used to rely on my magic eight ball for everything. Should I pick David Bryant or Kenny Henderson to “go with” in 4th grade? Was the song I requested going to be on the radio? Will I earn enough money to buy that 10 speed Schwinn Calliente Cinnamon colored bike?

Having the magic eight ball in my office is comforting. Even if that triangle doesn’t work like it used to, heck..I don’t even work like I used to in some places. I like to look at it and believe it or not, lots of people pick it up, shake it, try to see through the murk, but they hold on to it like it’s some kind of comfort. Some kind of gypsy fortune-teller to their destiny.

I had a dad in with his little boy the other day, while his dad filled out the application and told me his story, his 7-year-old son and I played with my rock em sock em robots. It was another case of no work, no rent, no food, community service. I’ve heard it all and it’s heart breaking. I’m not becoming numb to it, but I’m becoming tired of it. Come on…! Where’s the light at the end of the tunnel?

The little boy brought over the magic eight ball and wanted to know how it worked and what it did. I told him it told the future. He didn’t understand. I don’t blame him. I’m sure he was afraid of what the future may hold for him. I said let’s ask it something easy, like what you’re going to have for lunch. He had no idea. I asked “Is Chris going to have a peanut butter sand which?”  Chris then informed me he didn’t like peanut butter. I asked, “Is Chris going to have a bologna sand which?” Chris shook his head to that one too…hmmm…”well Chris, what do you like for lunch?” Chris quietly told me mac and cheese. “OK…is Chris going to have Mac and Cheese for lunch?” I shook it, tilted it my way and said …WOW…

DECIDEDLY SO… he was thrilled and looked over at his dad who was just smiling but seemed sad himself.

I stood up and went over to my food box and pulled out 10 boxes of mac and cheese, put them in a bag and said “ENJOY!”

Magic Eight Balls can be right.


{January 26, 2011}   Homeless

In the matter of 3 hours I had 2 families who were once homeless come in to see me to work off some workfare volunteer hours. The first was a mom with 6 sons ranging from 1 year to 23 years old. She had been homeless, living with friends here and there until she was able to get into an apartment. She was given some assistance for her rent and part of that assistance requirement is to volunteer with community service as a pay back.

I keep lots of toys in my office and as the boys played, their mom and her fiance filled out the paperwork and told me their story. She was interesting. She had been a massage therapist and had done really well at one point, but with the economy, more and more of her clients had stopped coming to her, budgeting their needs and wants, and using any extra money they had to pay for the things that were necessary. Massages are nice to have but not too many are necessary although many of us think they are.

I set them up on a volunteer assignment and plan and as they were leaving my office noticed my tub of canned food that I keep. She hadn’t received her food stamps yet and could they take some ravioli and soup? I gave them a bag and they cleaned my out. Boys are big eaters.

That family actually wore me out too, so as I regrouped and answered some voice mail, I reflected on how things have could have unraveled for her.

About a half hour later, there was a knock on my office door and in came another woman. Soft spoken, kind and in need of workfare hours as well. She had been homeless too, but she had sent her children away, finding places for them to live while she and her boyfriend lived out of her car. She still had a job, but working at McDonald’s and having 3 boys wasn’t enough to be able to keep an apartment. Between her, her boyfriend, her brother and his girlfriend, they all were able to pull enough together to get an apartment, but this month they needed rent assistance and in turn needed to do workfare. Her youngest son came back to her just in time for Christmas. I’m meeting with her tomorrow to discuss her plan and get her set up. I’m sure I’ll hear more of her story then.

It’s amazing that we live in one of the richest counties in our state and there are homeless families that are struggling daily. If you are able, please continue to donate food, blankets and clothing to shelters, food banks and community centers.

You don’t want to look too deeply in to how people have gotten there, just accept that they are there now and need a kind word or a helping hand. You may not see it as much as I do, but there is a need more than you may know.

et cetera
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