I’ve been feeling kind of down with my stay-at-home mothering, and so I’ve been trying out the old adage that the best way to help one’s self is to help someone else.
I’m a bit limited in what I can do. I used to volunteer for an organization that provided public school kids with tutoring, but now with my own kids, I’m not able to do that. Nor am I able to help out at a soup kitchen, or work with rescue animals (or more than I already have) or a million other things that would take me away from my kids on a regular basis.
There is, however, a rec center a half block away from our house, and as my kids use it regularly for classes and love the park there, I jumped at the chance to volunteer for the community board that deals with issues at the center.
One of the first things Jack and I did was to donate a new push-car to the kids’ play room there. That was dumped, broken and dirty, back into the lobby of the center about a week later.
Then, I organized a movie night to kick off summer camp information with a showing of the original 60’s “The Parent Trap”, had Jack put together a kid friendly band to play beforehand, replete with kid jokes, and spent my own money buying the movie and the popcorn supplies, compostable cups and napkins. Then I had my parents come out to watch the kids while I set up the room, made popcorn and passed water out all night and then cleaned up with a few other people.
Granted, a few kind folks expressed their gratitude, but I felt totally abused by the end of the night. Not only did I get screamed at by some woman about the band being there and their sound level (they were trying to GET an appropriate level at the time), I had people complaining that the free popcorn didn’t have enough salt on it, had too much salt on it, and then half of the kids just threw their popcorn and cups on the ground.
I know there are always greedy, insensitive people, but I was totally exhausted by doing this. I don’t feel like my horizons have been expanded in any way, I just feel like I’m spread more thin.
I also look at my sister. She’s always trying to do something good and is always getting bitten in the ass (sometimes literally) because of it. She joined the Big Sisters program in New York only to be dumped by her obese little charge because my sister couldn’t afford ice cream after taking her to Coney Island on her day off. She’s brought home scores of homeless, elderly dogs only to be bit or have half her salary taken away in vet bills.
Look, I’m not saying that one should not be gracious, or giving, or altruistic. It’s just that the benefits to oneself, I think, are often grossly overrated, especially if you don’t believe in brownie points or Jesus points, or karma.
I’ll keep mucking along, doing what I can, giving to public radio, and the SPCA and showing up for community tree plantings and donating to food drives. I’m actually looking forward to creating a tile that we get to send along with our babysitter for donating to her trip to Zambia to teach fine motor skills to disabled kids there.
But I am just a little disgusted with the ungrateful jerks out there who ruin so many good intentions.