For a long time, I’ve had this nagging feeling that I’d really like to be a better person. An obvious reaction to this would be, “well, be one then, you fool,” but I mean more in a context of actively doing things to make a difference in other people’s lives. It’s not an uncommon feeling and there are a lot of reasons why people want to give back to society. For me, I guess it comes from the fact that I had a few problems when I was a child, and I’ve always felt kind of guilty about not making the most out of a second chance. So, over the years, I’ve tried to at least be the person that always has time for others and always makes an effort with “outsiders.” Doing so has helped me, in a small way, to feel like I’m doing something good. That is until…
..the inevitable moment hits me, like a slap in the face, when I realise exactly WHY some people are outsiders – they’re annoyinnnng! I try my utmost to be nice, while inside I’m screaming “pleeeease, just stop that shit, I can’t take it,” and it actually starts to feel unfair, like I’m this poor victim, and I question what bad thing I did to deserve this. Then I have to start phasing this person out, right. “I’ve got a lot of commitments.” “No, I don’t need any help with my commitments.” “I know you honestly don’t mind, but I really don’t need any help…” because I totally made up all of my commitments!! Next I’ll say I lost my phone, until they stand right in front of me and call it and it rings (shit). Things get progressively awkward, I’m scared to go out alone, I think about moving house… Basically, it’s REALLY HARD to just go around being good off my own back! I get it wrong. So I figured I needed more structure and context. Something like volunteering!
Working your way through pages of volunteer opportunities should make you feel proud to be getting involved. It SHOULD make you feel proud, unless you’re a teeny bit of a dick, like me, and the more pages you scroll through without finding anything you’d actually be willing to do, the more you start to feel like you might be a little bit rotten inside. It’s not that I wouldn’t volunteer for a homeless charity, it’s just that I have a delicate sense of smell and I wouldn’t want to be rude. It’s not that I don’t like animals, it’s just that the little fluffy bunny might look cute now, but when its wild instincts come raging out and it bites off my face, then what good will I be to charity?
Eventually, I redeemed myself and found the perfect place! It may seem doomy and gloomy, but that’s a wide misconception of hospices. The hospice is all about enabling people to live their lives as fully as possible for as long as possible. It’s actually a really upbeat and loving place. There is, of course, the possibility that I could fuck it right up and, like, literally annoy someone to death!! But I think I’ll be alright…(gulp!) After a two-day induction, I was tasked with my first role as a volunteer – to man the linen stand at the quarterly hospice jumble sale. “How quaint,” I thought. WRONG!
Pulling up to the hospice on the bus, I look out the window and think to myself, “huh, look at all those people lining up there with suitcases, I wonder if it’s some kind of epidemic or something?” I make my way inside and locate my linen stall, only to find that another SIX people are working with me at this solitary table. “Hmm,” I thought, “maybe they’re all just really shit at volunteering around here.” I get on with folding up towels, as dear old Eve has instructed me to do and then I ask, “Oh, by the way, do we have any carrier bags?” Dear old Eve roots around under the table, “yes, dear,” and hands me a roll of bin bags. BIN BAGS? Big old, industrial size, bin bags! What the shit is about to happen up in here?
When I say it was carnage, I am massively understating the craziness of this jumble! At its busiest, the linen table was five deep with arms and hands coming from everywhere and nowhere grabbing up towels and dashing them back, people fighting each other for the last purple pillow case, haggling the life out of a 20p shower curtain. It was nuts. It was relentless. People got loud, I got louder. People gave me lip, I gave them lip right back! I LOVED IT! It was like an adrenalin ride. “No, love, you can’t have that unopened John Lewis double duvet set for 2p!” It was both ridiculous and a lot of fun. I mean, you’ll always get chancers at these types of things, so much so they had community police officers walking around, but there were also some really lovely people coming by. The other volunteers were a bunch of characters too. Where else would I have a conversation with an 80-year-old woman about her “friend with benefits”!! (How I’d hoped she was talking about state benefits. She wasn’t.)
I ended my shift feeling exhausted, stinking of old rag, with a new handbag that cost 50p, and a surprisingly large amount of cash for the hospice. I felt pretty good. I felt the urgent need for alcohol, but yeah, I felt pretty good. Can’t wait for the next one!