E. B. Davis's "Ice Cream Allure" contained in the new anthology, Carolina Crimes: Tales of Lust, Love, and Longing is now available at http://www.amazon.com/Carolina-Crimes-Nineteen-Tales-Longing/dp/1479408832 Look for the trailer on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZVkSYbgD7V0&feature=youtu.be Nineteen tales by SinC members!

James M. Jackson's
new Seamus mystery, Cabin Fever was released last week. Look for the WWK Interview on 4/9.
Check here for a list of online retailers or to order a signed copy from Jim.

Linda Rodriguez's
new Skeet Bannion mystery, Every Hidden Fear, is available for preorder at her website:

http://lindarodriguezwrites.blogspot.com/
Look for the WWK Interview on 4/30.

KM Rockwood's new Jesse Damon novel, Brothers in Crime, will be released on May 2. Look for the WWK interview on May 14th.

Gloria Alden's
short story, "The Body in the Red Dress," has been accepted by the Bethlehem Writers' Roundtable for publication in March/April. Look for the story under the section called "and more" at the top of the featured author of the month. Also look for her third Catherine Jewell Mystery, Ladies of the Garden Club available at all bookstores in print and ebook.

Welcome Wednesday guests for April: Kathleen Dalaney 4/2, Jim Jackson 4/9, Janet Evanovich 4/16, Teresa Ingle 4/23, Linda Rodrigues 4/30.

Paula Gail Benson's short story
"Confidence in the Family" is featured in the Mystery Times Ten 2013 anthology, which can be bought at Amazon. http://www.amazon.com/Mystery-Times-2013-Linda-Browning/dp/0984203583/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1387240857&sr=8-2 ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Giving Back

                                                                              

                                                                               NELDA

                                                 She leans on her cane,
                                                 a mountain of flaccid white flesh
                                                 sagging downward under a worn housecoat
                                                 her feet encased in old blue slippers.
                                                 She smiles and greets me by name.
                                                 I'm one of those who come
                                                 on different days for a few brief moments
                                                 most days we're her only visitors.
                                                 "Here's your meal," I say. "Nice and hot."
                                                 My cheerful voice tries to ease
                                                 the pain, the loneliness I see on her face today.

Above is the beginning of a poem I wrote about one of my first clients on Mobile Meals. It chronicles the last time I saw her. The picture is not of her. I don't take pictures of the people I serve.

I've been a volunteer in one way or another most of my adult life. While raising kids, I volunteered at Head Start, was a den mother for Cub Scouts, a Girl Scout leader and  taught CCD at my church. My volunteering pretty much ceased when I started teaching. There was no time then, but I planned to get back to it in some way once I retired. When that day came, I considered what would be the best fit for me. I considered Habitat for Humanity as I'd worked hard on my old house when I bought it; whacking out walls with hammer and ax, pulling nails from the studs, helping finish the drywall my son installed and helping with floor sanding. But I knew that would involve working in hot weather. I hate hot weather. Mobile Meals was what I settled on. Because I have a lot of gardens and yard work, and spending much more time writing, I volunteered to only deliver meals every other Thursday. I usually have from nine to thirteen clients, and my rural route totals about 35 miles.

Some of my people I never meet. Either there's a care taker who takes their meal, or there's a cooler outside for their meals. But most I do meet, and although I can't spend as much time with them as I'd like, I've gotten quite fond of many of them.

Nelda, in the poem, had serious health issues and felt quite neglected by her family. She had few visitors so I always gave her a little extra time. She eventually went into a nursing home where she received better care and people to visit with in the short time she had left.

Nellie is the only client I still have from when I started more than six years ago. She's a tiny, little, white haired lady in her nineties now. We share a love of gardening, and she's given me seeds from the four o'clocks that grow next to her house. Until this year, she's planted a gorgeous vegetable garden behind her home, but this year she's turning it over to her son. She told me it's the first time in over 50 years she won't be gardening. "But," she added with a twinkle in her eye, "I'll be out there giving advice whether he likes it or not since he's never planted a garden before."

I always left Rose's meals in a box on the front steps. I'd knock and wait for her to appear at a window to make sure she was okay. Like Nelda, she was hooked up to oxygen. One day there was a postcard with a poem on it in the box. It was one she'd written, and her minister had printed. I started leaving a few of my poems for her. She'd watch for me and once had me in her house to share other poems she'd written and had published. She became my poet friend, and I felt a loss when she died.

Freda and her husband had been farmers. Now a widow for many years, she lives in a ranch house with her brother. I deliver meals to both of them. In her nineties, she's quite active and makes sure the snow is cleaned off the steps before I come. A few Novembers ago, I commented on the beautiful flowers beside her porch and how the frost hadn't damaged them. I knew they were fake plastic flowers, but I was teasing her. She looked startled for a moment and then burst into laughter. "Would you like a start from them?" she asked. We both shared laughter over that. She's always quick to laugh. It's why I look forward to visiting her.

Dennis and I were once in a lap dulcimer group I'd gone to briefly long ago. Now he's a recluse living in a dilapidated old house with sagging porch and windows missing glass upstairs and no close neighbors. Once in a while someone comes with a tractor to mow down the high weeds. It looks like a haunted house from a spooky movie. I always left his meal in a dirty cooler on the porch. I've only seen him twice in the years I delivered to him when he happened to be coming or going. Now he has home health care and doesn't get meals from me anymore.

Years and years ago when one of my sisters was taking a philosophy course, she postulated that there is no true altruism. When we do good deeds for others, it's for the positive boost to our own ego. I argued at the time with her, but maybe she was right. Not so much in the boost to my ego, I'm not out to impress others, but in the fact that I enjoy these people I meet. I'm pleased that however small my role is, I bring a smile to their faces - at least some of them. I do have one grumpy old man, but I still smile at him, and once he actually smiled back. That made my day.

Have you ever done volunteer work? If so, what did you do? If you don't, what kind would you like to do if you had the time?

12 comments:

Alyx Morgan said...

How wonderful that you volunteer so much of your time to this, Gloria.

I have volunteered a few times in my life - massages at a Ronald McDonald House, & at a cancer event, cleaned up a beach here in San Francisco - but nothing with the regularity you've described. But I like your idea of doing more once you retired. I'll have to look into that myself.

Victoria said...

My sister, like yours, doesn't believe that there is altruism in the world, but I disagree. I think an altruistic person doesn't do the things they do to get something out of it, which is why, in your case, when you feel good at the end of the day it is a nice bonus. Cynics believe there is no altruism; idealists know there is. Realists *hope* there is.

Gloria Alden said...

Actually, Alyx, it doesn't take that much time. While I still had kids at home, most of my volunteer
work included my own kids. I was a stay at home mom and I enjoyed working with kids. They can be so funny at times.

Gloria Alden said...

Victoria, I agree with you, but I still wouldn't choose something I hated doing - like working on houses when it's hot and humid. :-)
Fortunately, there are so many places one can volunteer that's the perfect fit for them. I think of so many Guppies, who volunteer for our organization. I'm thankful for what they do.

Linda Rodriguez said...

Gloria, I know people who also believe there is no altruism in the world. I've noticed that they do little giving to the community and others, so I've always thought it was projection on their part--they see none in themselves and thus believe there is none in the world. (NOT saying your sister falls into this group.)

I've volunteered all my life, still do. Tomorrow, in fact, I'll be spending the whole day giving writing workshops to disadvantaged teens as the culmination of a year-long project where I went into their school to work with them. I've volunteered for an organization to meet the needs of women with HIV/AIDS, for the Indian Center here, for organizations that help new immigrants, for battered women's shelters, etc., etc. My life as a kid in bad circumstances was helped by the people who tried to give a hand, and I try to pass that on down the line.

I loved your descriptions of your encounters in the Meals on Wheels program, so evocative! I hope when I'm Nellie's age I'll have her spunk and spirit.

Warren Bull said...

I have not done a lot of volunteering but I chose to spend my professional life working in settings that gave services a low cost or no cost at all to the clients. We were always the last resort and the staff was not as well paid as we would have been elsewhere. I had the chance to work with great people among the clientele and on the staff.

Patg said...

Hi Gloria,
I know what you mean about liking all the people you meet. I volunteer at a local charity, Albertina Kerr, and work in their gift shop. The have a restaurant and consignment/antique shop in the building too. Everyone feels like buying something just because it is for charity, and I have a lovely time convincing them that they should. :)
Patg

Gloria Alden said...

Linda, I am so impressed with all the giving back you do. I recall your blogging about the writing workshop for disadvantaged teens. That is such a worthwhile project. The power of the pen can't be emphasised enough. I'm not sure how you find time to do all you do with all the writing you're doing, too. It almost makes me want to go lie down and take a nap. That is if I didn't have grass on steroids waiting to be mowed.

Gloria Alden said...

Warren, what you did was a form of volunteering, and a very worthwhile form. I admire people like social workers, etc. who work for the underprivaleged and earn much less than their big wig counterparts.

Gloria Alden said...

I know how much you enjoy working -volunteering at Albertina Kerr, Pat. The work you do is good for others and you, too. I can hear your convincing arguments for why that customer should buy the item they'd only casually been looking at. :-)

Kara Cerise said...

Great blog about volunteering, Gloria! I think there is such a huge need for volunteers that maybe motive doesn't matter.

Following my parents' example, I've volunteered most of my life. Currently, I'm a conversation partner for a woman from China who is learning English.

But the most life changing volunteering experience I had was when I was a teenager. I helped take care of orphans who lived in Tijuana, Mexico. Some of the kids lived in cardboard boxes. And the babies were in a shelter but they trembled because they weren't held often. It was a humbling experience.

Gloria Alden said...

What an interesting job that would be, Kara. The other one would be so depressing. I've heard the reason many children adopted from overseas have bonding issues is because they weren't handled as babies. Anything dealing with suffering children is so sad.