Sunday, October 20, 2013

On Volunteering

I find myself feeling a little unhinged after volunteering at the public library today. 

I spent two hours with one patron who came in to apply for a job online. 

To say he lacked computer skills would be a gross understatement.  I found it difficult to explain that a different computer would not have different job openings … we set up an email account for him … we struggled to put together a resume for him even though he has never held a job for more than a year and a half, not to mention the gaping holes in his work experience due to incarceration.

And then suddenly I realized that this old man, this man with only a few teeth left, this man who is obviously homeless, this man who will get a job only if a miracle occurs … this man is a year younger than I am.

Now, I always felt that I had a pretty easy life with lots of opportunities.  I had to work hard, it’s true, but I managed. It’s true, my father died when I was young, but everyone has hurdles, right?  Then I discovered while telling my children stories about when I was a kid that they thought I had a pretty awful childhood.  I still think I did ok because I didn’t have it too bad.

So what is it that that makes two people from similar backgrounds end up with life trajectories so wildly different?  This patron today … he grew up in a suburb of Minneapolis too, he was involved in music when young too, he went to college for a while … and yet there we were, at the public library, trying to find him a job.

Anyway, there is no point to this post.  I’m just rambling because I’m still a little stunned.  Also, I have a job interview on Friday.  The patron and I - two people trying to improve our lives. 

Morgan Library, New York ... A different sort of library.


Fede said...

En "La vida es sueño", Calderón de la Barca ya nos habla de este tema: "Cuentan de un sabio que un día/ tan pobre y mísero estaba..."
¡Qué triste!
Mucha suerte en tu entrevista.

soxanne said...


Nunca he leido "La vida es sueño" - lo buscare pronto...

kmkat said...

"There but for the grace of God..." Hard to say why things happen sometimes.

soxanne said...

Indeed - it is enough to make existentialists out of all of us...