Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Being A Big Help

For whatever reason, growing up, it seemed to me to be the highest praise when someone told one of my parents (or when my parents told me) that I was a "big help."

I've gone through phases in my life when I've been a big help to others more frequently, and phases where that hasn't been common.

For a variety of her own reasons, my friend and boot camp buddy Megan committed to do a day of community service each month this year.  We were talking about New Year's resolutions, and she mentioned that one.  Even though it wasn't my own resolution, I asked her to count me in. 

Because of our work and travel schedules, there were a few times she volunteered and I haven't been able to join, so I tried to add a few of my own opportunities as well.

Here's a list of how I tried to be "a big help" in 2017, along with a few pictures, though I'll mostly save those for Megan in case she does her own post (since this was her idea and all!):

January:  Tried to assist with the illegal detention of immigrants at the airport.  This doesn't really count because, uh, surprise, I have no immigration law experience, and by the time I got there, they didn't really need warm attorney bodies as much as they did the day before.  I'm glad I tried to help and that I at least got to express my support for the cause. 


February:  Volunteering with Megan at a fundraiser breakfast and auction for Back On My Feet, a personal favorite worthy cause -- a structured running program targeted toward individuals living in local homeless shelters.  I ran with the group very briefly but stopped primarily due to schedule conflicts (but also mileage needs and not liking hugs), but love helping the group in non-running ways.  As such, I was so happy Megan found the opportunity for us to help their fundraiser be successful.  Megan thinks I used my line "first ballroom on the left" (complete with charades) about 300 times (directing individuals arriving at the hotel to registration for the event). 

March:  Setting up for a church service and serving lunch with Megan following the service at a new development in Dallas that has small cottages that are given to chronically homeless individuals.  I got to meet Megan's parents for the first time at this event.  My husband did not enjoy the church service (there was a testimonial that bothered him), but the people we met at the lunch were great, very interesting. 

April:  Painting a kitchen at the police department.  I have zero painting experience, but it was a fun day, though messy! 

April part 2:  Working a shift with Megan at a Habitat for Humanity "re-store."  I'd never been to one of these, it's basically a big warehouse/store with building supplies and furniture/decorations.  The organization had just moved into a new location, so we mostly spent the afternoon moving chairs and other items that were already there or were coming from donors, and sweeping.  But other tasks included pulling nails out of wooden beams, setting up a display area for patio sets, being a listening ear for a site manager who was clearly strung thin -- so stressed, so much on her plate in advance of the grand opening, needing to unload, and being "in charge" while the director went to eat -- that was when we realized that we may have been the only adults present who didn't have to be there -- lots of people doing court-ordered community service!  I only asked one person how he came to be working the same volunteer shift as us (a kid who was moving beams with us), and he said, "teen court."  Oops.  I didn't press for details, but he volunteered -- a traffic violation he said, and he was irritated that he was sentenced to more hours than someone with a drug possession charge.  Anyway, it was a fun day and entailed some physical labor and sweat, which I know was good for me.

May:  Playing with kids at a boys and girls club.  I'm a sucker for board games, so this didn't even really feel like volunteering. 
June:  Working a water stop with Megan for a Back on My Feet race.  On a "surprisingly cold for June" day.  In the rain.  In the pouring rain.  Hard to tell you how much more fun it is to run in the rain than it is to stand at a water stop in the rain.  It was pouring and we were at a water stop that only served the longer race distance, so we didn't get a ton of runners, and we all huddled in a car (including some in the trunk) after we had the water set up while waiting for the first runners.  Brrrr! 
July:  Helping to serve meals to officers working the local fireworks show.  Thankfully, I was not in charge of the grilling.  It didn't seem to be going well at times, but fortunately, there was a fire station directly across the street...

July part 2:  Sorted part of a mountain of donated clothes with Megan for Muslims For Humanity's Dallas part of Helping Hand.  The piles we sorted into were kids summer/winter, women's summer/winter, men's summer/winter, Arab, Pakistani, bags, shoes (and along the way, throwing out anything stained or torn that we wouldn't wear ourselves).  The basic distinction between Arab and Pakistani that we were told to use was to put any brightly colored items (saris, etc.) into the Pakistani boxes.  I liked doing this, but it felt frustrating because it seemed we barely made a dent in the mountain, despite hours of work. 

August:  Working with Megan at a United Way event donating backpacks filled with school supplies to kids in need.  We first worked a registration tent, then helped with backpack distribution, then we got to enjoy the festival and play games with the kids.  We spent most of our game time playing Jenga with various kids, so fun!

September:  Babysitting with Megan at a church one Friday night.  The program, Rays of Light, is set up for parents to bring their special needs children (and any and all siblings!) to get a night out.  There is a police officer present to oversee, and two nurses to help as needed, and about 20 (?) kids, and volunteers for each kid.  The boy we worked with in his early teens and was pretty much non-verbal.  His favorite thing to do was pick up big legos off the floor and throw them back into the box, which we'd then dump out again.  He could do it all night long -- and eat baked potatoes!  I'm happy we were able to give his mom a break, and I'm glad we were both assigned to the same kid, he kept us on our toes!  I absolutely loved doing this. 
September part 2:  Volunteered for a couple shifts in the police wives' association tent at an event. 
October:  Worked with Megan and my husband's cousin who was in town for a visit at our food pantry.  Megan and I were assigned condiments which meant sorting through a big pallet box of condiments to check expiration dates, load them into smaller boxes, and then label and close the smaller boxes.  That was especially fun for her with a broken finger (only one at the time, she now has TWO broken fingers!).  After we finished the pallet of condiments, we moved on to canned goods.  My husband's cousin was on peanut butter duty -- unscrewing jars to make sure seals under the lid were intact, checking expiration dates, and boxing.  It was a fun afternoon for all of us and something I really enjoyed doing.  Our team of about 20 did 8.5 pallets, a total of 11,200 pounds, filling 521 boxes and making for 9,334 meals. 

November:  Volunteered at another water stop for a race.  It was a warm day and after filling all the cups before runners came through, I decided my time would be best spent while runners were passing holding out my gloved hands full of ice for any runners who wanted to grab some.  Lots loved the ice cubes to put in their mouths, or just run over neck, arms, whatever for a second.  It was a warm day for a half marathon! 
December:  Worked at a children's Christmas Party with Megan.  This was probably the easiest one of all.  Basically, we just played Monopoly all night!  The game started with two girls who were in seventh grade.  After a while, they got distracted and others took their places.  It was fun to see them count out change, and the vast differences in mathematical abilities.  There was one girl who seemed fairly young and when she landed on a utility (Electric Company or Water Works), she could right away do the multiplication to figure out rent in her head.  But another girl who seemed older used her fingers to add up what she'd rolled on the dice.  And another girl who was super fast at math and subtraction in her head, even for pretty big amounts (buying property), still used her fingers to count the dots on the dice.  They were all fun and sweet kids, easily excited, very enthusiastic and friendly.  What a joy!  The organization was giving out lots of prizes and all the kids got gift bags. 

Looking forward to being a big help again in 2018.  It's so good when you have friends who talk you into being a better person! 


  1. That is awesome - having the ability to give back, and finding those opportunities, is wonderful. We always try to do what we can, and it is such a good feeling.

    Had to laugh about the 'hugs' thing - everyone is different in that regard, and also with regard to strangers vs. known people. I tend to fall in the 'huge' camp so I find it great when I can offer a friend a supportive hug ... but one of my best work friends is really not. I know she is rather stoic, but we had an issue with our older son early last year that was pretty serious, and she asked what she could do and I said 'I could really use a hug' ... she obliged, but rather than making me feel any better, it was a clear sign that I would never ask her for one again! haha

    Funny the triggers we carry through life - I think most of us who are 'go getters' love being told we were a big help, regardless of the circumstances. Good luck being a Big Help in 2018!

    1. Haha, too funny about your coworker! I'm happy to hug friends (unless 1 of us is sweaty (both sweaty = fine)), but I don't like hugging people I don't know and love. Work is funny -- I'd be happy to hug same sex equal or lower rank (and probably opposite sex too, but we lawyers are trained pretty well to avoid that $hit!), but I can't imagine hugging a supervisor (regardless of sex, though I've mostly had male bosses).

  2. This is so awesome! I love the whole idea and that you did a variety of different things.

    1. The variety was nice indeed. Her idea, and I thought a very good one. Spreading the wealth so to speak.