This week I volunteered, which was a humbling experience.
It’s part of the Unitingchurch Kippax’s annual hamper drive. Before I paint myself as a hero, I want to say that I only put my hand up for one three hour shift as an ‘elf’ (i.e. volunteer). I also didn’t do a lot as there were about as many volunteers as recipients (it’s been an odd COVID year). And I honestly think I got more out of the exchange than they did.
The first time I did this was back in 2014. I had not long been suddenly single, and money was pretty tight. I took a day off work, and I went and volunteered. And I was humbled by the experience. I realised on so many levels just how incredibly blessed I am.
I do it most yeaers now. Some years I miss it. My friend, Alle, puts weeks of effort into it including coordinating donations. I just turn up for a few hours.
This year they had donations from businesses, and different donations. Brand new clothes from a discount store that had closed down. Beautiful quilts and blankets from the Canberra Quilters (Quilts for Others). New toys as well.
“There are others who need it more than me”
What really struck me was just how humble most of the recipients were. I had to really urge them to take more things, including for themselves. “Oh no, there are so many people who are worse off and really need them more than me. I’m alright.”
Well, clearly they weren’t alright as they wouldn’t be there. And when assured they could take more, they were so grateful. Especially for those beautiful quilts – what a lovely gesture.
I came from a background of middle-class, private school privilege and, while my mum had grown up poor and working class, I often heard a certain amount of negative stereotyping that went on about welfare recipients. What always amazes me is just how lovely most of the people coming in are, and how alike we are. It could easily have been me as a single parent recovering from domestic violence who needed that help. And honestly, who knows what might happen one day? Compassion is so important – for whatever reason, be it death, divorce, bushfires or other natural disasters – there are times when we need help and support.
Toys and gifts
I also dropped off a few brand new toys, still wrapped, which my boys had received but for whatever reason had never used. Yes, it happens. Usually I ask them about their toys but I was pretty sure they would not have minded. They have a few surprises come Christmas anyway.
Kippax Uniting Church is still accepting toys – at least until tomorrow as this is the last week of the 2020 drive. They like to have a few in reserve so that when they start in advent next year they already have some saved up.
How the process works is that clients go into the ‘toy room’ and pick out one large toy and one small toy for each child. Some people spend an inordinate amount of time choosing – it’s a big thing for those who don’t have much. They also pick one item for themselves (and often, they need to be really encouraged to do this).
And there is always a book for each child. I loved the ‘every child needs a book’ sign. It says it all, really. Because every child really does need a book.
After finishing my elving duties, I dropped off a carefully chosen bag of things to my favourite op shop, Another Chance in Scullin. I had been saving items for months and I was careful not to give them anything I thought they couldn’t sell.
Nonetheless, I still felt a bit guilty about it. There was a sign on entry that said that at present, they could only take limited amounts (i.e. what people carried in and not car-boot loads). Canberra is a transitory town and a lot of people are moving out right now – end of university, end of many postings and even end of school. I guess op shops are one of the favourite ways to dispose of things.
Of course post giving there was the usual look around the store. This time I was a lot more reserved – only a few small items of jewellery, many of which will be gifts. I’m getting better at saying no – this challenge is changing me!
Various cutlery and miscellaneous items to the op shop – 27
Toys, games etc – 4
Volunteering – 1