My first day working at the after school program turned out to be much more of a challenge than I had expected it to be. Not only were the children infinitesimally more rowdy than I remember middle schoolers to be (especially for a Monday), but they also lacked initiative to do their homework because they were so caught up in their addictive cell phones and all of the drama on social media.
Instantly, I became very nervous, because I had expected to be around kids who were eager to learn and participate in fun activities. Was this really the place for me to volunteer? Throughout school, I was always the hardworking student who looked forward to doing her homework and would get berated for reading too much. Students who scoffed at the idea of doing their homework or reading for fun were a shock to me.
The idea of volunteering your time seems like it would be really easy; you show up, do some work, you leave feeling like a better person. However, this simply isn’t the case.
First, to volunteer somewhere, you have to make contact with the organization in order to ensure they need volunteers when you expect to come, and that you have other possible qualifications necessary to volunteer with their program. Typically, this initial contact is made via a phone call.
If you’re as shy as I am, you know how terrifying a phone call to a stranger can be, and you know how easy it can be to procrastinate this task. As you dial the number, you can feel your stomach tightening and you begin to sweat as you hear the repetitive dooooot of the phone ringing. Thousands of little worries come to your mind: What if I forget my name? Why am I calling again? What if I stutter? They’re going to think I’m an idiot….Oh no they’re not gonna answer, now I’ll have to stumble through a voicema- Oh! They’re picking up! They’re talking. That means I have to talk soon. Oh NO!
What is giving? Is it simply handing an object to someone else? Is it a commitment?
What about kindness? Is kindness just using your manners?
And what about charity? Is it a philanthropist donating large quantities of money to big name charities? Is it waking up at the crack of dawn to work in a soup kitchen?
Before I can begin my exploration of kindness in day to day life, I feel that is important to define these terms in the context I plan to use them throughout my blog. The Merriam-Webster dictionary gives sixteen definitions to the word giving, ranging from giving presents to giving birth. For the word kindness, there are two definitions that are closer to the ideas I am looking for– a kind deed, or the quality of being kind– but these are still vague. Finally, for the word charity, Merriam-Webster gives four definitions and the first one is probably the best description I’ve read: “benevolent goodwill toward, or love of humanity.”