I started volunteering at 1Just City in early 2019. I’m not a student who needs volunteer hours. I’m not retired with extra time to give. I’m a small business owner with a wife and 4 kids. Even as broke and busy as I should be, it’s important for me to not only find a good work/life balance, but also to give back with both my finances and my time (which can be even harder to give up sometimes).
My motivations for volunteering are selfish. I wanted that warm fuzzy feeling from knowing I had done something good. I also wanted to gain some understanding of a low-income community. In order to be able to serve the community effectively, I needed to be able to be a part of the community. Although I am not wealthy, I grew up with a reasonable amount of privilege, and so it is important for me to be able to learn about people whose backgrounds differ from mine.
It’s been an interesting experience meeting both different people in the community and the volunteers at 1JustCity. I didn’t expect to make friends with people in the community, but I did. For example, I met a guy named Martin very early on. When I started, I didn’t know what to do but Martin was great at making sure everything in the drop in was running smoothly. He would have backups ready when we needed to make more coffee. He wouldn’t wait till the sugar or milk ran out at the coffee station to make sure it was full. If he saw something that needed to be done, he made sure it got done. I’ve worked with a lot of managers that weren't as diligent as he is. I told him if I ever opened a restaurant, I would hire him as a manager!
Not every interaction is as positive as my interactions with Martin. We get people who come in high. We get people who try to steal things. We get people who try to take a mile when you give the inch we have to give. We get people who are just plain unhappy. When I encounter those situations it's important to push past the frustration to remind ourselves that these interactions are why we’re here. If we can show people love even while they’re actively pushing us away, we may be able to make a real difference in their lives.
We chose to work with 1 Just City for a reason. During the COVID pandemic, to continue to do the work we signed up for, we need to ensure we’re safe, and by extension we need to do our best to keep the community safe. At the Maryland-St Matthews location, we are doing the best we can to keep our staff, volunteers and community members safe. We’ve got to keep serving the community.
Charles Allen Earth and Hide