Friday, September 21, 2007


When I'm at work, I often have a hard time sitting still. I work on my feet and there always seems to be a lot of things to do before we open for service. 1pm is the magic hour and honestly, some days I don't know how we are going to get it done. I have finally reached a point where I don't think we'll be ready for service and yet I know that somehow we always are, so I just trust my experience rather than my feeling in the moment.

Yet my boss wants me to take the time and chew the fat with the volunteers. He actually said that this isn't like a normal job where chatting is frowned upon. Shooting the breeze is almost in my job description. It builds community, and reinforces the community that already exists. Since they're not being paid, there are all kinds of reasons the volunteers show up week after week, and part of my job is to hang out with them.

Even if I have an unorganized meat freezer (or two).

Even if the produce from the farmer's market needs to be sorted.

Even if the service area is a mess.

Even if the bread table needs to be set up.

Even if I want to move the worm buckets around.

There are times when I have to quiet the list in my mind and just listen. This is something I am still practicing: I notice that when a volunteer is telling me about his trip or about a USDA report she read, that to-do list starts to chatter at me. For a moment I have this inner dialogue shutting down the list. Doing this actually makes me concentrate on the conversation even more.

Today a couple volunteers brought a cake to the food bank. I was training someone on one aspect of delivery when the FBD called a meeting at ten minutes to 1, which turned out to be in celebration of my birthday (last week) and the birthday of another volunteer (two weeks ago). They sang "Happy Birthday" and we each had a slice of cake, and then I grabbed my trainee and wandered off to continue training him. A few minutes later the FBD reappeared and pulled me back to where everyone was sitting and talking about the 50th HS reunion someone had just attended.

As I sat on the edge of a desk and listened, I thought to myself that this was one of those times that I just need4ed to sit still. I didn't know that the FBD had explained to the half-dozen clients sitting outside that we were going to open a little late. I just sat still. When I worked in an office it was so easy to jaw with a colleague, and at the food bank it's so hard most of the time.

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