When Will I Volunteer Again?
During these past pandemic months, I've been looking forward to returning to my volunteer work, with kids and senior groups. It will be strange and wonderful to eventually gather around the old quilt again. I need to prepare myself for some rough restarts!
Volunteering with Refugees in 2017
Today, I'm remembering another time when I had a break from volunteering. It was nearly 5 years ago. I had sort of a failed attempt with my quilt.
It was February 2017 and I was just getting back to volunteering, after some time off with cancer. I had some big concerns about our new president and his words about immigrants. I knew Houston was a welcoming city and I wanted to help.
I found a Houston program that was reaching out, to support and educate immigrants. They needed someone to watch kids, while "Moms" took classes. Babysitting is not my thing, but I was happy to bring my quilt once a week and entertain, with some puppets and songs and games.
Minutes after arriving on that first day, the quilt became buried under toys and toddlers. The mothers were uneasy about leaving their kids with me. I didn't speak their language and I hadn't earned their trust.
I was in that room for only an hour, but it felt like days. Every trick that I've used as a teacher and mother in 40 years, seemed to fail. I was too busy to distract, with my playful songs and cheerful games. Too busy, snatching "choke hazards" out of toddlers' mouths and loosening little fists that held chunks of hair, or clobbered with toys. The stuffy room was hot and I worked up a good sweat, as I leapt from the floor numerous times to keep kids from escaping down the hall.
After 1 hour, the moms returned. The room was a mess and so was I. I returned the next week, thinking surely things would be better. But my quilt and I failed again and I wished them luck finding a new babysitter. I went back to my regular "Around the Quilt" program, with kids and seniors, at the places I loved and missed.
What Did I Learn?
Sometimes it's really good to allow yourself to quit. I don't do that often. I always feel if I just work hard enough, I can make it work. I could have demanded a helper and cleared that room of dangerous toys and learned how to communicate better with kids and moms. But I was too tired. I was still growing back hair and gaining new strength. It felt wonderful to step back and just say "No. I can't do this."
I guess this is sort of a good memory after all.
For 20+ years children have called it the Magic Quilt. They've danced and pretended all over these colorful squares. I've dragged it to schools, shelters and studios where children have climbed on top to hear Magic Quilt Stories and to act them out.