Thursday, January 24, 2008

I'm here to help

This is the year of building a better Libby. I am getting a slow start, I will admit, but I have big plans of getting healthier and being more productive. Tonight I started back at yoga class, and I have actually been keeping appointments, returning phone calls and following through with things I said I would do. It’s amazing. There has, however, been a slight hitch with one of the things I decided I need to do – volunteering.

I have always considered volunteering, after all, I was raised by my Mother to have a healthy sense of guilt. After I started working an earlier shift last year I thought to myself “now I have the afternoons to save the world.” It was either that or starting to drink earlier, which I seriously considered. I looked into several volunteer opportunities, made a few calls to find out about hours, then figured I had done my part and pushed it to the back burner. That is, until last night. My inner do-gooder got the better of me and I went to my first volunteer orientation at the Utah AIDS foundation. It was only when I got in the room and was trapped that I realized why volunteering wasn’t a good idea – I hate people.

There were about 10 people there to learn about volunteer opportunities, and several of them weren’t do it out of the goodness of their hearts if you catch my drift. One of the men interjected at almost every opportunity “I just want to finish my 46 hours and get my life back. Occasionally he would add something about cabinetry work, having his own place again, or his brother, but the chorus always included the 46 hours and the desire to get back his life. Now, I am very aware that it is admirable that this man is trying to pay off his debt to society and get back on the straight and narrow, but why can’t he do it quietly?

Another guy in the group had apparently never heard of AIDS, or if he had he thought it was a dietetic candy. As the group leader started laying out how the disease is transmitted, how it progresses, and how people can protect themselves, this man’s face got paler and paler. He finally started asking questions like “wait, someone can have HIV for ten years and not know it,” or “can it be transmitted through tears.” The leader answered the questions very patiently, correcting common misconceptions, and then asked if the man would like to pick up a pamphlet on the way out. If I had been leading the group I may have asked him which one of Jupiter’s moons he had been living on for the past ten years, and if they gave free unicorn rides there.

Of course, both of these men paled in comparison with my favorite participant, a man who just kept repeating the mantra “that is fucked up.” Mothers passing HIV through breast milk? Fucked up. People not knowing they had been exposed to the disease until a decade later? Fucked up. And the possibility that someone could get HIV through kissing if they and their partner have large open sores in their mouths? Definitely fucked up.

I left the meeting unsure if I could volunteer to work with people in the community, many of them who need serious help. After all, I couldn’t get through the orientation without wanting to bang my head, or someone else’s head, into a wall. I thought about maybe volunteering at a place where I don’t have to deal with people, like Antarctica. Then I remembered I really hate wearing snow pants. And then I thought about how I should try wearing snow pants again, since I’m trying new things. And then I thought about how volunteering and is a new thing, and a good way to build a better Libby. Then I slapped myself in the forehead in order to start thinking about other things, like pizza.

So, I guess I’ll try volunteering after all. If nothing else, maybe I’ll learn patience, which I hear is a good thing to have. I just hope I don’t kill anyone first. That would be fucked up.


cate said...

so does that include actually going to movies with me when you say you are going to?