I’m usually pretty happy with how I’ve planned trips for the family over the years, but this year when I was planning our trip to Halifax for the holiday, I really regretted something. Something that I think could really add meaning to the time spent together.
All these years of tripping with the kids in many kinds of places, I should have built in a volunteer experience, or even planned a volunteer trip. It’s not too late to still do this, of course, but I really should have thought the purpose behind some of the things we were doing when away. I fully support vacationing to unwind, be somewhere else and just enjoy the new location. However, I’m also not one to pack too much into the trip for fear that everyone will be disgruntled by a timetable (myself included). We will tend to experience the highlights of a place, but we also like to venture into the local scene. To me, part of being a local is understanding the community you are visiting – and sometimes it isn’t pretty. Every community has it’s woes and challenges and if we are going to spend time there, shouldn’t we do something helpful because spend money in the local coffee shop (which is one of our favorite things to do).
I think it just really came to mind this year because we were planning a trip in our home country over the holidays and holiday time is often when volunteers are needed to help at dinners or pack toys and such. I’ll keep this in mind for the next trip.
Let me tell you something.
I know some amazing people. All kinds of amazingly intelligent, kind-hearted, there-for-you kind of people.
It’s noticeable to me that I gravitate to a certain type – we all do. But it’s really interesting when I think about the range of people that have come into my life. Having met so many people from different countries, cultures, and life experiences, you’d think it might be hard to adjust to ways of thinking or understand someone else’s background. But in the end, what really matters to me is what kind of person you are. And those people are thoughtful, reliable, and probably best of all – they challenge my thinking. Those are the kind of people we all need in our lives.
I’ve got my friends from long ago that have taken different paths from my own, but it doesn’t change the respect we have for each other or the way in which we value each other. I’ve got sets of friends from more recent years, having changed work and living environments that I also just can’t imagine my life without.
Perhaps the turning of a new year has got me thinking. It’s a hard time of year for many people for a few reasons and so I wanted to just throw my teeny bit of gratitude out into the atmosphere. I value the updates and conversations, the sharing of thoughts, the venting, and celebrations we have with and for each other. I think of you often and you know who you are. I just wanted you to know.
I’ve been doing a lot of volunteer time with the folks at the Food Bank Singapore for the last couple of years. When I lived in New York, our school would often have food drives for the NYC Food Bank and so when I moved to Singapore and found that my school had the start of a relationship with the fairly new Food Bank Singapore, I thought that this some work I could carry through from my last experience.
In my roles at the International School, I supported the development of the relationship of the school and the Food Bank by inviting representatives to give information sessions to students, enabling students to hold events to support the Food Bank, and organizing volunteer Saturdays for staff and families.
Although I have left that school community, I didn’t want my relationship with the folks at the Food Bank to cease because this is eradicating hunger is a cause I strongly believe in. The system isn’t ideal here in Singapore, but they are doing fairly well securing donations from large companies, hotels and the general public for beneficiaries. This community support clearly benefits the 10% of Singaporeans that are food insecure, but of course, the hope is that over time these beneficiaries will be able to become food secure on their own (as with any public service to the community).
If you are looking for a place to volunteer, Food Banks offer a number of different opportunties. Here are some of the things I’ve helped out with:
- Inventorying food at the warehouse
- Packing food bundles for beneficiaries
- Help littlies pack bags for delivery in the community
- Canvassing at the Food Expo & other large events
- Raising awareness of local food waste problems
- Assist at the Grab & Go (free food pick-ups to beneficiaries)
- Leading students in sorting food
- Chatting with many volunteers
- Data entry of requests and food distribution
- Researching worldwide food waste issues, etc.
Likely there is something that you may be interested in helping with, so get out there and do it!
He had a name on his sign. So I called him by his name.
“Hi Matthew”, I said. “This is for you.” And I handed him a water, then a pretzel from the corner vendor.
“Thank you”, he responded. “Wow, thank you.” He wasn’t expecting the pretzel, only the water.
I liked Matthew.
I appreciated that Matthew’s sign represented honesty and truth. He’s right. Most people don’t give a shit, however there are many that do.
I think it was important that Matthew shared his name, making him more of a person to those passing by. Putting a name to his dirty face definitely makes passersby remember him; I am writing about him after all.
I appreciated the thanks I got from Matthew, and that he wanted to converse. He shared a little about his hardship, whether it’s true is another story. But I appreciate that he offered me some information in return for the food I had just given him.
As I walked away he said he thanked me again and said that he didn’t know what God had planned for him. Thinking back I could have responded that his situation really depended on what he has planned for himself.
But maybe it’s best I didn’t say anything.
He just wanted to be heard, so I listened.