Last night I finished proofreading the twelve translations I had promised the Ronald McDonald House of Chapel Hill. With that job finished and emailed I sadly finished my volunteering at the Ronald McDonald House. It has been an amazing four years. I have met the most amazing people: other volunteers, staff, families of hospitalized children and of course many of the children being treated. Although I have learnt a lot getting my PhD, what I have learnt at the House every Monday from 6 to 9 pm are the simplest, most basic lessons on humanity, on what our job is on this planet. It is not about the latest phone, gadget, money, clothes, whatever. It is about seeing a child smile, it is about helping each other out, even if all you do is get them a roll of toilet paper.
This last semester I was so frantically working on finishing my dissertation and finding a job, that I had to take a few months off from volunteering. But as soon as I delivered my thesis and stopped going to job interviews, I was back at the house; vacuuming the lobby, cleaning and preparing rooms for incoming families, cleaning up the kitchen, doing orientation tours for families, sorting soda can tabs for sale, taking the trash out, and just helping out. By far the most rewarding three hours of my week.
Besides helping at the house and translating documents, this year I again volunteered at the Spring fundraising Gala. The theme this year was Storybook Gala Under the Sea, which means: “The Little Mermaid”. This year I helped during the live auction, I was a “spotter” for my half of the massive dining room. I had to “rile up” the bidders, and jot down the data of the winning bidder. I naively thought I might bid on a nice box of Romeo and Julieta Cuban cigars, but when the bidding started at $500, I realized I would not be smoking a single one of them – the winning bid was $2000!!
My last few weeks volunteering were a bit on the sad side, as we all knew I would be leaving soon, so the whole shift team met for farewell drinks at Zog’s to mitigate the sadness. We had a blast! Our boss is Michelle, the evening manager. She is a bit of the mother goose for all the volunteers, at least during our shift. I love her management style, very understated, she speaks softly but easily gets her point across. I have three partners in crime that volunteer at the same time. Bill is the one that has been with me since the start. He volunteers chair massages for the families of the hospitalized children – although sometimes we get to sneak a massage for us. He is a star! He comes from the Seattle area, but he has had just about every job you can imagine. He used to work construction, even building a restaurant for Sonny Bono in LA! Although he has retired, he still volunteers building houses at Habitat for Humanity and gives chair massages at the USO lounge at RDU airport and at the Ronald McDonald House. He is like a big brother for me. Margaret is a hot shot executive at a Fortune 500 company, but you would never know it. She is quiet, brilliant, and funny, in fact the complete opposite of me. Our youngest addition is Sara, she was a senior at UNC and a manager of the UNC Football Team, so she always had great stories and anecdotes. I am going to miss them all so much.
Naples Florida does not have a Ronald McDonald House, but I am sure I will find new volunteering opportunities.