I showed up at the Center for Architecture at 336 La Guardia Place on a Wednesday night. I went there to volunteer instead of going to Wednesday night service.
I paid the taxi driver 45 dollars to drive me from the Bronx to Manhattan…and realized that he could not read in English. So he had a time finding the cross street, Broadway….because he was going to WORK for his 45 dollars!
I entered the building in the all black outfit we were required to wear. My first stop was by the security and they directed me to the main table where I met the one running the show, Ms. Liu.
Your job is to check people in as they enter. We don’t want the lobby area to get too crowed.
She gave me a chart and apologized for having to go.
Ask Henry to explain everything.
I never had to ask Henry, it was pretty straight forward. As people enter, ask them their names and check them in.
The party goers showed up:
Pretty ladies with long dresses, handsome men with neat hair cuts, cut out dresses, skin tight dresses, suits, shirts and ties, short stout men, tall women, mother and daughter teams, daughters in jean while mothers in expensive jewelry and heavy make up, couples, blazers, couples of every sort, one man in a beard and dress, women with spring flowery print skirts, sweet perfume and strong cologne, high heels, stilettos, flats, sandals, ugly men, old men with grey and black hair, cute old men who still had it going on…whatever that means…graceful old women who carried themselves as the wise and prudent…
All walking with poise and forgetting that all flesh really is grass. I watched everyone come and everyone go. I worked the coat check and this allowed me to interact with them.
We, the volunteers, were not familiar with each other, so we worked in silence until someone asked the other for his name.
I met Henry, Kylie, Hannah, Babs and Marilee. By the end of the night we were laughing out loud at inside jokes and bonded while sharing our stories about growing up in America. By the end of the night, we vowed to meet up again.
A week ago during the snow storm, I left my warm apartment and went to Harlem and volunteered with i, Too, Arts Collective which is a non-profit organization committed to nurturing voices from underrepresented communities in the creative arts. They are responsible for renovating the Harlem renaissance poet, Langston Hughes, home.
When I was in college, I went on a date with a young man who grew up in New Orleans. He was crazy about the Harlem renaissance because of his high school teachers. I, who grew up in New York, was crazy about Harlem because of the books I read alone (my high school curriculum skipped majority of my history…really America’s true history). In any case, he took me to Harlem for a date and I remember us standing outside of Langston Hughes home taking about his poems. Then we spoke about what it would take for his home to become a museum. Then, we stopped talking so the conversation pretty much died like a raisin in the sun. However, the dream didn’t because I am now apart of a team of people who are preserving Mr. Hughes legacy by opening up his space and reserving it for writers and other artist to gather.
Along with the Mary Mitchell Family and Youth Center, I am preparing for the long, historical, event-filled weekend (it’s Martin Luther King Jr.’s day on Monday. Saturday is National Volunteer Day and to top things off President Obama will be sworn in for a second term).
For starters, tomorrow, Mary Mitchell will be hosting a celebration of Dr. King with the children by simply helping the children to understand the importance of what Dr. King did for the American people. I hope the children look at Dr. King as a man who did something they can all do- dedicate their time and love to their community, state, and country and even the world. (Do you know Martin Luther King Jr. is the only lay person in American History to actually get a national holiday?)
Some, as children, learn about Dr. King really young but not all understand that he was not great because his name was King or because he was born with a silver spoon in his mouth but he was great because he did the work that God called him to do and put his entire heart into his work. If only more people would work more diligently, perhaps our communities would be a little better.
I was listening to an old recording of my deceased apostle, Bishop Goodwin, and he said: Paul told Timothy, stir up the gift that is in you…[if] you want the Victory, stir up the gift.”
In other words, whatever that is good, that God is calling you to do- do it and do it well. You may be a child and your duty may be to go to school. Don’t go to school and be a disappointment to your parents. Be the best student you can be…Whatever it is that you are on this earth to do- whatever that is good- do it and do it well.
I remember as a little girl my mom would take my siblings and I to visit the sick and the elderly. We did not always want to go and most of the time were forced to give up our Saturdays to sing at someone’s sick-bed.
I remember one time we went to someone’s home who was so helpless. The person could not help themselves at all. You know how people thank God for the use of their limbs? Well, even though she had limbs, they were not in use. Also, there was a certain stench- I can still almost smell it- just by remembering this situation. But my mom did not once turn up her nose or leave any faster than she would have left a relative home. She stayed and spent time chatting and laughing.
I did not know then, but now I know that my mom was teaching us how to give and how to give freely. She taught us how to give expecting nothing in return. A lesson that not many people have. I have friends who don’t see the importance in volunteering or simply sharing.
Now as an assistant directress of the Holy Temple Church Radio Young Adult Choir and a member of the Holy Temple Church Radio Junior Choir I make an effort to visit the Saint Barnabas Nursing Home every time either choir attend (this is a picture of us on a Sunday). Going to visit the sick and lonely always makes my day go better. It’s something about doing good that makes you feel good.
I encourage you to find an outlet where you can do good and expect nothing in return.