I was at work yesterday pottering around waiting on the arrival of a potential volunteer I was meeting(something I am always hoping to be doing at this time of the year!) I spotted quite by chance out of the corner of a tired eye a brown envelope that had landed beneath the letterbox. This was a bit odd! Post is a morning ritual. Picking it up I noted the following handwritten on the envelope-Memory stick -The Life Centre . Sad but true I was intrigued and even got briefly romantic notions of a psychological thriller type scenario- what was on this memory stick!-a sure sign I’ve been watching too much Netflix and not spending enough time with young people! Tentatively I opened it to find a beautiful letter accompanying true to the envelope’s word a small silver memory stick.
The letter was from a volunteer who had worked with us almost two years previously. Though he had to leave at the time to pursue other work it was more than clear the young people had carved out a place in his heart and his mind. They have a habit of doing that! They’re really good at it and they don’t even have to try! Since his departure it had been on his mind to put together some notes and presentations that might support young people in their studies. But he didn’t just think about it, he did it! And while it might sound small it made my whole afternoon, my day and beyond I’m sure. That envelope had flitted in through our red door like it was nothing but it represents everything. Because it got me thinking about all the wonderful people who have walked through that red door and given their time to work with our brilliant young people for 12 weeks, for 6 months, for a year, for 8 years in some cases. And they didn’t all leave memory sticks, but they all left their mark!
So I spend the evening thinking and eventually feeling that need to put pen to paper or far less satisfactory- finger tips to awful tablet-type keypad. Thinking about all the marks left in my own heart by the beautiful , authentic acts of love and support I have witnessed from volunteers in our community down through the years.
I think about the amazing, gentle, free-spirited friend who introduced a young man to music and the guitar and opened up his world to so many new possibilities. I think about the very charming, laid back man who created a bond with a hard to reach young person through their mutual love of Scrubs. I think of the people who dropped a young person to and from boxing twice weekly after-hours because they couldn’t bear to see this love of sport lost. I think of all the people who have stayed on a Friday afternoon to help with cleaning(we don’t have the luxury of a cleaner!) when likely they’d have preferred be anywhere else in the world! I think of the many thousands of times, countless times that volunteers have stayed late, come in early, worked a Saturday because it was about something that mattered for young people and therefore mattered to them. I think of the passion and excitement of volunteers when they find that thing that matters to a young person and a way to support them to build on it and explore it. I think about volunteers who have mopped tears (their own as well as young people’s) and sat through the worst of times with them, celebrated the very best of times with them. The volunteers who text, phone, email after hours, during holidays to check in with me about young people. The volunteers who care enough to be angry when young people are just not getting what they deserve from life and from the system but then do something- turn that anger into something productive. The volunteers who come year-on- year when saying goodbye and worry they got more from the young people than they contributed. I think of the former volunteer who travelled from the UK to be with us and the young people when we tragically lost a student this year. And I can only hope these people knew how much these acts little and large mattered and how they still matter.
It has been nothing short of extraordinary to see time and time again that it is those volunteering their time, their heart, their talent , their energy who seem to be the most likely to go the extra mile, the extra 10 miles, stay the course for the marathon! I hope some of you might be reading this and might know who you are.
So I went this afternoon to meet this potential volunteer with all this in my head and my heart, and I talked(probably too much) , I listened and above all I noted her eyes danced when she spoke about young people. And I said to her ‘You obviously love young people, that’s about 75% of the job’ And I laughed but I meant it because it’s true.