Tuesday, November 18, 2008

I'm a Scrooge

Well, the holiday season is fast approaching. I know that because:
1. It’s cold
2. I just made plane reservations to fly home for the holidays.

Now, I’m going to sound like an old puss here; or a grinch, scrooge, take your pick.

But if you and your family have an intention of heading to a homeless shelter on Thanksgiving or Christmas day to help out, I have a word of advice:


Really. For six years, I worked in social services here in Chicago and every year in every place it was the same.

A few days before either holiday, we would be totally inundated with do-gooders wanting to volunteer to serve meals at the shelters. At one place, we even had to pull extra staff just to answer the phones and coordinate it all.

I know that lots of folks had good intentions by doing so, but most intentions were a bit misguided.

One woman called up the day before Thanksgiving and offered to volunteer. However, when she was told that she could help stock the food pantry she became pretty upset.

You see, she wanted to work with the homeless. She probably had visions of herself serving food for an hour or so while smiling benevolently at the less fortunate. She sure as hell didn’t want to be stuck in the back, anonymously stocking cans of tuna or bagging potatoes.

Another fellow called and wanted to bring his two younger sons down to help. I guess he thought it would be a good experience for them to see “the less fortunate” on Thanksgiving Day.

I wanted to tell him that we ran a housing facility - - not a zoo.

I don’t know that every shelter is the same way – only the ones I was associated with here in Chicago. But believe me, we didn’t need help on either of those days. The homeless shelters and soup kitchens often serve three meals a day, seven days a week. Thanksgiving and Christmas are not much different.

That’s not to say that volunteers are not needed at social service agencies. They are.
Big time.

We had a steady group of wonderful, selfless volunteers that showed up regularly all year round. We relied on them immensely.

But on Christian High Holy Days, it’s probably just best to stay home and eat your turkey and green bean casserole. You know, with the crunchy fried onions on top.

If you really feel the need to help, try showing up in January when it’s 10 below outside and help unload the delivery truck.

You’ll find it in the back alley by the garbage cans.


At 10:11 PM , Blogger Lorraine said...

A. Men.

We're starting to get that...all the people who are motivated by the holidays to come help out at the house. I don't want to sound ungrateful but you gotta wonder where those folks will be in June when we still have a house full of people who are far from home and in need of some lovingkindness.


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