Friday, September 21, 2012

The One Where I Tried to Volunteer

"I volunteer, I volunteer as tribute"

Well not tribute, but elementary school volunteer and really isn't that pretty much the same thing?

You are out there in the unknown, challenges at every turn, bake sale, book fair, something called "Family Fun Night," which I definitely signed up for in that fog of first day excitement, but was smart enough not to reply to the email from the PTO member about taking on the challenge of co-chair.

I am walking blind into these event, I don't know where anything is at the school and I don't know who anyone is. However, I am ever grateful that the one sponsor who always shows up at these events is Dunkin Donuts and that he is always offering me something from his Box O'Joe.

Last week, after I dropped the Little Lady off for her first day, I got in Minnie-Ru and headed over to the book fair at the Lady's school to volunteer. Could I have been home spending time with QT or doing something around the house? Yes. Was I? No, but I was able to listen to my own songs in the car.

After I finally was able to figure out how to buzz into the school (when the office buzzes back--you better be opening that door), and found the gym, my job at the book fair was to walk aimlessly around watching kids write down the names of the books that they wanted their parents to buy for them on Back to School Night. My role was to help anyone who needed it, which weren't too many considering that most of the classes that came in were 4th and 5th grade. I was also forced to tell a very sweet 5th grade boy, after a fairly exhaustive search on my part that I did not think that there were any Judy Blume books. Not quite a Katniss/Rue moment, but close.

Are you there God? It's me, Bean, and this is torture. 

I did meet one very nice woman who was also volunteering. Both of her children were in school, so not only was she covering the same 9-11 shift that I was, she was also going to be coming back in the afternoon to cover more hours. What? More hours of watching kids write down books about Justin Beiber and wrestling while bypassing actual books that were worth reading, didn't seem like how I would want to pass my afternoon, but then I started to feel guilty about not volunteering enough. Should I do more hours? Should I come back the next day? I am trying to join a community here, maybe I should just quit my job, chair the PTO and become the queen of book fairs. What is more important than kids and books? That's right. Nothing, except the new fall TV line up and free iced coffee days at Dunkies. 

But then reigned it in. I showed up. I helped a few kids spell some things and check prices. I did take some time to write down the names of books that I wanted to get for my kids, knowing full well that "Barbie, The Princess and the Popstar" would be high on the Lady's list.

Finally, it was over. I had survived. The other woman gave me her email and told me that she would be more than happy to unload all of her Curious George books off on me and QT, I smiled politely and made a beeline for the door. As I was leaving, I passed the Lady on her way to the cafeteria and in that one little moment, I realized it was totally worth it to have shown up.

Fast forward to last night where I got stuck at work, had to pick up my husband and the kids and head over to the Back to School Family Picnic, where I was supposed to man the bake sale from 5:30-6.

After winning some tickets

The Lady got her face painted and a few tickets
We showed up at 5:45. I rushed over to the table where the other volunteer told me not to worry about it, that she "hadn't given anything back to the school yet this year" and to go "find your people and enjoy." For a moment I felt guilty, like I should run behind that table and sell sweets to elementary school kids, but then I let it go. I made it there. The Ladies and QT were more than happy to participate in some of the events and I was just as happy to participate with them.

There will be more volunteer opportunities coming up. I know, I keep on getting emails reminding me that I signed up. I will say one thing though to all the volunteers who's hard work and planning really did make for a great event last night, do not, I repeat, do not buy whistles for prizes. I don't care what sale you found at Party City, those whistles were a relentless assault on my evening. A scary foreshadowing of what I can only imagine a 4th grade recorder concert might sound like. My ears are still ringing. What kind of mother would think that giving 100+ elementary school kids whistles is a good idea?

Maybe I should get on this PTO. I have ideas. . .

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