A real thing I said to a girlfriend last year: I think I’ll wait until next year to start volunteering with Bee. Toddler help is sometimes not helpful, you know?
A real thing Bee said to me this year: Mom, can we make our neighbor Bob some lunch and take it over to his house and play with him and play with his cats and we will all eat together, you know?
So, she’s ready.
The top two reasons grown-ups don’t volunteer are these: (1) No time. (2) No energy.
Know who has both, and then some?
So, here’s our list:
- Make toys for the zoo animals. Our local zoo has an amazing program for this, where volunteers of all ages learn how to make paper-mache balls, cardboard bird mobiles, cereal necklaces, posters for visual stimulation and musical instruments. We had the best time, and the projects were scale-able for short attention spans. We spent most of our time tearing pages out of the phone book so the big kids could paper mache with it, and Bee was so happy to be part of the action. If there’s no zoo in your area, or this program isn’t in place, perhaps check for an animal shelter who might welcome homemade toys?
- Clean up the creek. There’s a dam by our neighborhood pond that often fills with trash and debris after a thunderstorm. Who’s job is it to clean that up? Bee once asked, and so, the answer this summer will be us.
- Donate to shelters. Last month, I called our local women’s shelter to see what items were needed for them to run their building more efficiently, and the answer was a resounding: baby supplies! Bee loves that she’s not a baby anymore, so she was all too happy to pick out her favorite baby items to deliver to the shelter. Can I bring my wheelbarrow? she asked, and she proudly toted the goodies up and down the street until drop-off day arrived. (Huge thanks to Munchkin for kindly donating so many wonderful items with us!)
- Make cards for sick kids. Bee’s a crafter, and I often find her in the office, sandwiched between massive stacks of paper, glue, stickers, markers and crayons galore. Next week, we’re choosing a few favorite drawings to send here with a note of encouragement. She’ll get to practice her letter writing and we’ll get to send a smile. Win/win.
It’s just that we can get lazy. We can busy ourselves with projects that are far less important, with activities far less encouraging, with to-do lists that are far less healing for all of us.
I often sit with this underlying feeling, this just-beneath-the-surface fear, that maybe, perhaps, what if I’m wasting this time? What if I’m watching it whittle away in front of a computer screen while just outside this coffee shop there are things to be done, small things with great love, big jobs for little people, hands to offer and smiles to give?
And as I watched Bee string Cheerios into a leather necklace for the birds, when I saw the joy, the pride, the responsibility she felt choosing her favorite baby items to pass along to someone who needed them, I thought of this:
“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” Anne Frank said it.
I thought I was waiting for Bee. I thought I was waiting a single moment for her to be older, for her to initiate interest, for her to serve up chili in a soup kitchen without spilling it down the front of her apron.
But no, I didn’t need to wait a single moment.
All this time, she’s been waiting for me.