It’s funny how life works, right? Sometimes life events seemingly have no rhyme nor reason, and other times things fall into place in ways better than you could ever imagine. I’m learning that sometimes all it takes is opening my heart and mind to the possibilities, and they will present themselves. Like last spring, when I started to feel like the time was right to find another volunteer opportunity for myself, but this time I wanted to include our 5 year old. I searched “kids volunteer” online and found Kids Korps, and it seemed perfect! When I began to poke around the site, though, I was intimidated by the sheer volume of volunteer opportunities, so I didn’t end up signing up for anything. Fast forward to Back to School night in my daughter’s kindergarten classroom, when one of the moms stood up and explained that the school had its own chapter of Kids Korps and she would be organizing monthly outings for anyone interested. Score! The puzzle pieces clicked into place and I signed F and I up on the spot.
It took me a while to find an event that seemed like a good fit for us, and at first I was a little discouraged. Bake sale? Our girl has severe (life-threatening) nut allergies. Pass. Selling Union-Tribunes to raise money for Rady Children’s Hospital? Seemed like a bit much for a 5 year old. Maybe it was me, I realized; trying new things with all new people isn’t always my strong suit. However, I don’t want my daughter to grow up with a mom who lets irrational fears hold her back. I realized that I needed to force myself out of my comfort zone and just dive in, so that’s what we did in December when we drove to the Del Mar Fairgrounds and helped sort food donations for holiday gift baskets for families in need. It was awesome.
We didn’t know a soul when we arrived and at first it was a little disorganized. I just took deep breaths and introduced myself to some people and soon enough, we were super busy. We sorted cans and boxes and all kinds of food donations – the adults checked the “use by” dates and the kids dashed around putting each thing in its place. F deemed herself in charge of the soup and she got a kick out of organizing the cans just so. The other moms and I chatted and we both made some new friends and in no time, we were done. Neither F nor I felt ready to go – we were just hitting our stride! But it was such a good time for both of us, we left with the promise that we’d join the group for the following month’s volunteer event, no matter what.
That’s how we found ourselves at a homeless shelter in Oceanside last Saturday night, plastic gloves on as we loaded trays full of salad, lasagna, and soup. Again, I felt a little nervous, but I’ve learned as I near 40 that that’s just how I function when I’m approaching an unfamiliar situation – I get butterflies even though I know I’m going to end up (usually) having a great time. It’s all about pushing past the little fears and stretching myself out past my comfort zone, because 99 times out of 100 it ends up being awesome, whatever “it” may be. That’s what I want to teach F, too, and I think it’s working: as we drove home from the shelter after a fun-but-intense hour of serving food to all different kinds of people, we talked about the experience. “At first I was kinda scared, but after a little bit, it was super fun!” she told me. “Can we do it again tomorrow night?”