Thursday, May 13, 2010

Thank you. Go away.
Being a volunteer and being surrounded by other volunteers is an interesting experience. Sometimes I feel like I'm working harder now for no money than I ever worked for a paycheck. I get no benefits. No boost to the bank account. I get paid in purrs and those moments when a cat that normally bites you finally calms down and lets you get near.

The other payoff is being around the other people at the shelter.

There's a certain kind of kindness that is common in people who give of their time. And I don't mean that to sound egotistical, it's just an observation. My fellow volunteers are all in it for the same reasons. Because we love animals and because we want to help them. There are some retired people happy to be able to do what they love now that their working career is over. Some people on various forms of disability who struggle with the physical demands of the job but do it anyway. There are part-time workers and college students with a desire to do something worthwhile with their free time. Even a few full-time workers who find the time to do something good.

I'm kind of the weird one. The voluntarily unemployed. But then again not everyone is as lucky to have someone like Husband who is willing to support me both financially and emotionally.

The odd thing is that not everyone is likable. You find that you want to like them, because they're doing good, but it's impossible to like everyone and there are as many annoying people in volunteerism as anywhere else. There are some people who, when I seem them come in, I sort of say to myself "oh no....X is here." On the one hand you applaud them for their social conscience. On the other hand you want to turn and run because of their bad oral hygiene or boring stories. Thank you for giving of your time but if I have to hear about your freakishly adorable granddaughter one more time I'm going to zarf.

As with paying jobs, you don't get to pick your co-workers. And sometimes you just have to make the best of it. While most of the time we're going one-on-one with the animals, there are times when circumstances force you to team up. If someone asks you to help them socialize a bonded pair, for instance, you can hardly say "not even for the sake of these needy cats will I voluntarily put myself alone in a room with you and your iPhone full of pictures of Vermont." So you go. And you do your best to nod and say "yes, lovely tree....a lot like the last 15 trees" and you try to get their focus on the cats. And when it fails and you realize you're stuck there for 20 minutes, you wonder if it would be more bearable if you were getting paid for it.

God I love my job.


Duke said...

I find this works well. Tell everyone you're deaf and can't understand a word they say. When people talk just smile and walk off. Make them communicate by writing it down on paper. Pretty soon they'll get bored and just ignore you.

I suspect most volunteers have a sincere wish to help the cats but they are mostly bored sitting at home alone. The appeal to volunteering isn't the work but rather getting out with other people. Having something to do besides sit at home. They seem to be more interested in running their mouth than working. Many of them are simply lonely people looking for social contact.

Then you show up. A person interested in helping the cats as top priority thrown in with a bunch of lonely socializers. I can see where that could cause some conflict.

FinnyKnits said...

Yep. Totally.

I went to a volunteer event at our humane society last week and could only identify two people in the crew of 12 who I'd even think about hanging out with normally.

The rest were total freaks. I'm not sure if I could do the regular volunteer work there. Not because I can't handle the commitment, but because I'm afraid I'd assault one of the other volunteers.

If only I could get them to promise I'd only have to interact with the dogs...

Kittie Howard said...

There's a small group of fully retired older women in our condo set-up. They volunteer for everything. And since they think they are so great they assume everyone else thinks the same. Truth is, they drive others nuts, don't really want to work, and talk non-stop about, what else, themselves! Ohhh, Decca, but you've got patience!! Bless you!