Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Volunteering

Me on a mountain top somewhere in Tennessee looking for that next cemetery

Now that I'm retired I'm often asked "Do you volunteer your time?"  My first thought when I hear someone ask me this question is:

"You're an old useless man now who has nothing to do with your days, surely you would want to give your free time to help others." 


Yes, perhaps this sounds harsh but remember, this is my blog and I don't fool around here.  I tell the truth as I see it, offending many along the way.

Now I'm not saying there is anything wrong with volunteering your time.  Many of us old useless folks find volunteering fulfills a part of their life by helping others.  I think that is JUST FINE.  If you fall into that category and you want to volunteer your time at the local thrift store (which I have been asked to do on numbers occasions), GO FOR IT!  You're happy, the thrift store is happy getting your free time, and the ultimate beneficiaries of the thrift store benefit by your generosity.  That is wonderful and I am not criticizing or condemning that activity at all.  What I am say, that is not for me.  I've seen old men like me volunteer and I don't like what I see.  They're not appreciated, they're taken for granted and they are looked down upon.

Me with my Mom at my paternal grandparent's grave in Union Hill Cemetery 

Bill and I got a kick out of seeing the description of one of our friend's obituary.  It listed his name and underneath it said "Neighborhood volunteer."  Say what?  We knew this guy and he was a former friend for several reasons.  Not only was he a racist who liked to use the N Word freely in describing another neighbor in our neighborhood but he was one of the most opportunistic and selfish people I've ever known.  That's why he was a former friend.  So we scratched out heads and tried to figure out what the "neighborhood volunteer" description meant.  And then it hit us!  Ah yes, our former friend volunteered at the local gay community center stuffing condoms into packets to be distributed to local gay bars.  Well that explained it, our former friend volunteered as a way to meet people.  He volunteered in a milieu where he was comfortable.  That's fine.  Whatever works for him.  Sort of funny though reading that description of him in his obituary.  The obituary should have went into more detail.  Now that would have been interesting.

Me standing on my cemetery plot at Northwood Cemetery, Downingtown, PA

I see the old ladies at the local thrift store who volunteer their time.  Bless their hearts.  I admire them.  Volunteering works for them.  Volunteering gives them a chance to put on their war paint makeup and get out in public and do something useful.  And they are always so sweet.  Volunteering works for them.  I'm happy for them and I'm happy for the thrift shop.


The view from my cemetery plot at Northwood Cemetery

So now we get to me, this old guy that some are so concerned that I don't have enough to do in my spare time that they feel the need to suggest that I volunteer my time to some worthy cause.  I guess they think because I'm not one of these well off older gay guys who has two or three homes that I travel back and forth too. You know, the home in PA and then the one in Rehoboth then the one in Florida for winter - sorry folks, I'm a POOR OLD GAY GUY.  I only have ONE home.  I tough it out here in the winter.  Nah, I'm not one of THOSE guys.  By the way, notice how they NEVER volunteer their time?  Oh yes, you won't see them getting down with the hoi polli.  They are much too good for that.  I notice that there is a direct inverse, the more property these guys have, the less they volunteer.  They're always the ones making the suggestions to this Poor Old Gay Guy.  I actually need to continue working to supplement my modest Social Security and retirement income.  I don't have the luxury of traveling between my homes.  I have a part-time job that I need to get paid for to keep up with my bills.  I'm not lazy.  I'll work as long as I can.

Some of my friends, who only have one home, volunteer at their local church (treasurer) or homeowners association (treasurer again).  Again, I think that is just fine.  They are utilizing their skills in a useful manner.  That is good and I do not criticize them. I admire them.

What I resent are those who feel the need to advise me that I should volunteer my time.  Here's the deal folks...I DO VOLUNTEER but I chose the method that I volunteer.  I am an Find a Grave volunteer.  I travel to cemeteries and take pictures of graves and post them to a website.  I do this because I ENJOY doing this plus my effort is almost always appreciated.  My volunteering is also good for my health because I get out in the open and move around.  I'm not one of those old gay guys who can't figure out how to lose weight.  I guess if all you're doing is eating out most of the time and moving around very little, you're going to put on weight and become unhealthy.  By the way, here's my advice to lose weight:

MOVE MORE, EAT LESS

Later today Bill and I are going to return to the Union Cemetery in Georgetown.  I have a lot of pictures to take.  While taking those photos, I'll be moving around, bending down and standing up.  I have about five pounds to lose that I gained over the winter.  I don't think I'll run into any of my Old Gay Friends at the cemetery today with three homes who advise me to volunteer my time. 


10 comments:

  1. Ron,

    I guess I have a little different take on this volunteering thing. I have volunteered for many organizations during the years I worked. I didn't do it so much when I was in my twenties, because I was working like 60 hours a week and going to college at night and writing on the side. Not much spare time there. in my thirties I became very involved in various such activities, more than I can mention here and did so for about 30-35 years. One thing I found, the more you did for such organizations the more they wanted you to do. When I reached my mid-sixties I decided no more. I did my share and now I don't want to anymore. Let the younger guys do it.

    I have some stronger opinions, but I won't go into them here.

    Lar

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  2. You practically work a full-time job. Where would you find the time to volunteer?
    m.

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  3. Mark,

    That is what I explained to a friend of mine who wanted me to volunteer to manage his thrift shop which raises money for his and his partner's theatrical endeavors. I don't have a problem with them raising money this way but it did sort of annoy me that he didn't think I had anything better to do with my time than manage his thrift shop. I've been asked to volunteer my time at another thrift shop that I frequent. What is it with these people? Do they think I'm some old man who needs to fill my days? I don't have enough time to do what I want to do now. What really annoys me is my gay acquaintances (I don't really consider them friends because they haven't earned that right) who DON'T volunteer THEIR time but feel it is quite all right to suggest that I volunteer MY TIME. What really galls me is that most of these guys have several homes and use their time traveling between the homes and dining out and lording it over everyone else. I'm tired of these people making "suggestions". Do I look like I need help?

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  4. Larry,

    I find that the more you do for some people (not everyone including you and a few others), the more people want you to do for them. I'll volunteer my time where and when I wish. I just came back from the Union Cemetery in Georgetown. I volunteered my time (about two hours) in taking 743 photographs of graves. That was MY DECISION. I'm not going to volunteer my time so some business or charitable entity can make more money off of my time. My time is too valuable. I'm not denigrating hoers who volunteer their time. That is their decision. But my time is too valuable to increase some else's bottom line. What especially annoys me is some of my acquaintances (former friends) who never volunteer their time but feel free to advise me to volunteer. They need to mind their own business.

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  5. anne marie in philly7:03 PM

    my spouse volunteers 2 hrs/week with "reading for the blind & dyslexic".

    I have no time, but I donate money to 2 causes I care about.

    retirement is not in my vocabulary.

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  6. Anne Marie,

    Volunteering for causes you care about is very important. I do not criticize anyone who volunteers. I only criticize those who suggest that I should volunteer to their favorite charity. I'll decide what I want to do with my time, not someone else. I don't know what it is, maybe it's my easy going personality. Some think I'm a sucker (no pun intended). I'm not.

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  7. When I was 18/19 in Cleveland, I volunteered some time to gay rights organisations. Usually selling raffle tickets at the clubs. I did it because you got into the clubs for no cost and hassle free (note that I was underage). I met quite a few people, none of whom I know now, so I guess that says it all.

    When I moved to Chicago, I volunteered for Equality Illinois and that was a great experience and I met quite a few people, none of whom I know now.

    The point is, should one decide to volunteer, it should be for a cause that one is passionate about and only in a volunteer position of one's choosing, and volunteering your time should never go to lining the wallets of an individual.

    Why the hell would you volunteer your time to manage a thrift store? People get paid to do that!

    A couple years ago, I managed a for-profit sector of a non-profit organisation. In part to spread word of mouth and educate potential buyers, I had to "volunteer" my time (during business hours) to teach lectures at schools for seniors type organisations.

    One woman who was probably about 80 years old, she always wore purple Chanel type suits with matching hat, net gloves and some flowers she picked from someone's garden on the way to class.

    One day she asked me if I volunteered my time to teach the class and I said, "Yes"

    Her response was, "Well then you're a sucker. Why the fuck would you volunteer to become a slave to the masses? Look at me, I am butterfly floating through life. Free!!! Now get out of here, slave!"

    I think that pretty much sums things up!

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  8. You're absolutely right Hank. If one is passionate about something and has the time, then volunteering is good. I volunteered for the RFK campaign in 1968. I was working at his Philadelphia headquarters when he was assassinated. I've volunteered for other causes over the years but for causes that I was interested in. What I didn't like was some of my "friends" suggesting what I should do with my "spare" time. I'll decided to do what I want to do, not someone else to decide for me. When I wrote the post I didn't mean to denigrate those who volunteer for causes that they like and believe in.

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  9. It's all good, Ron. I got what you were saying. I took like, your time is your time and you worked hard all your life to earn that time, and you will choose how you use that time and it is nobody's business what you do with it. Doesn't matter if it volunteering or babysitting or mowing lawns,etc. I get you.

    At the risk of sounding like I am suggesting what you do with your time ;) I would love to read a blog post about your time with the RFK headquarters when he was assasinated. Sounds like a very interesting story!

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  10. Hank,

    Good suggestion! I will be glad to relate my story of volunteering for the RFK campaign. In fact, I think I did write a blog about it. I'll look for it. Did you send me your e-mail address? If not, please send it too me and I'll send you a link to that blog posting about the time I volunteering for the RFK campaign.

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