Friday, May 22

NY Cares

One of my new year’s resolutions is to volunteer at least once a month. So far I’ve prepared a meal at a soup kitchen, helped girls at a shelter with their resumes, played bingo with senior citizens, cleaned up the lake in Flushing Meadow Park, and did arts and crafts with kids twice.

The hardest project was working with the girls at the shelter. My heart was breaking the whole time. The shelter was a place where homeless, runaway, or “throwaway” (how awful does that sound?) youths can stay. The few girls I met were in their late teens/early twenties, but something in their eyes made them seem much older. I wanted to hug each one and tell them everything would be okay. The thing is, I have no idea if it would.

I’m not going to pretend I have any idea what they’ve gone through. I was a troubled teen too, but let’s face it; all teens are troubled at some point. While my mom was a rageaholic, she and my dad still supported me. There was always food on the table, a roof over my head, and annual checkups. We had a pool in the backyard, they gave me their old car, and they paid for most of school. Looking back I really did have it all, I just didn’t realize this at the time. I was so angry, so hurt, so confused, so lost. I know I’ve referenced my drug use as a joke, but if it wasn’t for my parents I could have totally ended up out on the street or as a squatter. I never would have gone to college, never came to NY. It could have been me at this shelter having some blonde yuppie do-gooder explain to me the difference between a cover letter and a resume when all I’m thinking about is how I can steal her wallet without getting caught. Hell, maybe I wouldn’t have made it past 22.

As horrible as this may sound, I liked this project because the girls gave me perspective. They made me see my youth in a positive light. The hard part was recognizing once again, I am my own worst enemy.


The grossest project was cleaning up the lake. GROSS. Like SVU, possibly finding a severed hand with a missing pinky and long fingernails in an “I {heart} NY” bag gross. We were given rakes and gardening gloves. The gloves weren’t waterproof so every time I’d grab something out of the lake the slime would ooze down my hand and wrist. And that wasn’t the grossest part; there were dead turtles all over the place. They were big too, definitely bigger than a football. One was all bloated and stuff…BARFORAMA. Some other volunteers found a dead pig, too. I assumed it was a BBQ meal gone wrong or something, but they said it looked sacrificial. How many times can I say gross in this paragraph! The only good things about that day were everyone was really nice and it was gorgeous out. I will never volunteer to clean up anything ever again. Gross.


My favorite projects to date are doing arts and crafts with kids and talking to seniors. The casino night at the senior center was a lot of fun, except for the other volunteers. I’ve noticed there are two types, ones that do it to help and feel good about themselves and others who are pumping up their resumes and/or egos. The ones at the senior center were definitely the latter; it was like they were auditioning for Broadway. They sang, they danced, they put on a show. It sounds lovely, but the thing was most of the seniors had no idea what was going on! I sat with three women who were fucking riots, and every time one of the Vegos would break out in song, one of the women would ask, “What is she saying?” “Why is she singing?” “Are we still playing bingo?” “Who is she again?” It was hysterical! I’m not going to sign-up for this project again; the heads in the room were too damn big. I’d much rather sit and have an actual conversation with the seniors and hear their stories, make it about them and not about me.

On the other hand, I am TOTALLY signing up for more arts and crafts projects. I LOVE IT! I love hearing what the kids are into, what they have to say, and watching how they interact with one another. It’s also fun how creatively free most of them are (obviously a theme for me lately), but I find it more interesting to observe the ones that aren’t. Again I guess it all comes back to what I relate to and unfortunately I relate to the kids who seem unsure of themselves and a little frustrated to let go. I try my best to encourage and empower them, but I can’t help feeling like a hypocrite. That’s why I really want to break through my creative blocks and hang-ups because I don’t feel like I can truly help others do it if I can’t help myself.

Here’s a pic of a clay art project me, another volunteer, and an 11 year old girl put together:

Yes it’s weird I took a picture, but I regretted not taking one of the cafeteria I helped paint last year, specifically the man from Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs:

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