Monday, May 22, 2006

5/22 Volunteerism and dreams

As I've said many times, I love my job. But recently the old wanderlust has hit me. Hard. I know that I can't just quit and join Doctors Without Borders, which is what's been on my mind (and heart) for more than a year. It's just not sensible.

I've always done volunteer work. Lots of it. Right now, my sisters and I are preparing for a full weekend of the Avon Breast Cancer Walk in Chicago. It'll be here in less than two weeks. Certainly that's volunteer work, but it's not a huge commitment for me. As a team leader I do a tiny bit of work ahead of time, and lots during the weekend itself. Then it's over until next year. (I raised over a thousand dollars again this year, which is pretty cool, since as a crew member I'm not required to fundraise.)

Memories can flood me when I think of the many volunteer activities throughout the years, with some requiring weekly commitments over several years. But the one that felt so "right," was when I worked with individuals impacted by Hurricane Wilma last year. I was there for 17 days, but could have stayed much longer if I could have afforded it. Sure there's the adrenaline rush when you work in the aftermath of a disaster. But the adrenaline doesn't carry you through long periods, when the work becomes just plain work, rather than an exciting adventure. Yet, there's such a feeling of satisfaction, and even contentment, when you're doing work that you believe you are made to do. This kind of work is where my education, certifications, and experience has led me.

With Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors without Borders (MSF), the shortest amount of time to volunteer is six months. After being gone that amount of time, I know I wouldn't be able to return to my job. While there, I couldn't make my condo payments. So to do this would mean giving up my home and my job. Is it worth all that to pursue a dream? ("Yes," she whispered.)

My original plan was to do this when I retired, after quitting my job, but before returning to Quincy to live. Now I know that I can't count on my good health to last. Life is fragile. I need to do this while I am healthy, and physically able. Perhaps I'll be this healthy and able until the day I die (knock on wood), but there are no guarantees.

Okay, just dreaming out loud today...


Cindy said...

Dreams dont' cost a thing....and you have very noble dreams. Good luck with a tough decision!

Jer said...

Thanks, Cin. I appreciate it. One thing I love about MSF is that after six months you can go home (at least for a visit). Couldn't stand not to see you guys for any longer than that.

rob said...

Mom, I think I know how you feel--at least with regard to the kind of satisfaction and quiet reward garnered by doing something so out-of-the-ordinary that it seems reckless.

To follow your dream right now would be to knowingly and willingly give up a lot--not the least of which would be your own physical safety and financial security. For that reason, I find it difficult to cheer at the notion of you walking away from your job and home.

On the other hand, I certainly couldn't withold support if you decided to do it. I imagine you feeling as drawn to this prospect as I do to my reality. And I can't imagine my life without having stumbled upon what I now know was my destiny (one of them, anyway). You have the good fortune, or curse, of being able to look at yours (or what could be yours)--to weigh it, to examine it. Just try to make sure you actually see it for everything it is and everything it isn't.

The way I see it, the world has plenty of selfish people; it also has a good number of selfless, giving people. But what it needs more of is the kind of person who will pursue a selfless endeavor with selfish greed and determination. That's how remarkably good shit gets done.

With that said, I hope you can find a selfless cause that keeps you securely employed and safely at home.

You better call before doing something crazy.

Good luck. I love you.

rob said...

Mom, I almost forgot to tell you how proud I am of you.

Love Rob

Jer said...

Robbie, I love you so much. It was wonderful that you called and talked to me about your concerns. And when I read your comments, of course I got teary-eyed. I'm so proud of you too, sweetie. Love, Mom

Kelly said...

Heck, I got a little teary eyed reading Rob's response. Rob you are a great role model for your little cousins!

Beata said...

Mom, you know that anything idealisitc I will always understand. And I am happy that you've decided not to go yet. Please, wait until we get settled, secured, and rich, so we can support you while you are out in the world doing good. Then you don't have to worry about the job, apartment, mainly--money. I give you (us) about 5-6 years, ok??? :-) How does that sound?
I love you! B.

Jer said...

Kelly, I agree with you 100%. Aunt Jer

Jer said...

No guarantees, Beata. But you have hatched a good plan. We'll see how everything plays out. Love you.

rob said...

Well, I don't know if we'll ever be rich. Not important. But if we can put ourselves in a better position to relieve you of certain burdens should you decide to follow your dream, we'll be happy to do it, mom.

Kelly, thank you for what you wrote. I haven't always been, but I try every day.

Is this a great family or what? There are too many wonderful examples of selflessness, compassion, caring, and kindness to even name. You certainly don't have to look far to find a good man or woman to emulate in this bunch. And I've truly reaped the benefits from that over the years. We all do--every day. I love each and every one of you. Thanks for EVERYTHING, everybody.

Love you, mom!

Jer said...

Rich is relative.

Loved your post, Rob.

Joe said...

I wish you guys would quit all this, I can hardly see my monitor through the tears

Yep I am cuttin' onions.

I hope to do volunteer work when I retire, if I am still able.
Must get that from my oldest sister.

Jer said...

Aw, Joey. I love you, onion boy.