I’ve recently started volunteering with Drug Arm on their Street Van programme. My first impression is that it isn’t nearly as daunting as the idea of it. I don’t know if that’s clear, so I’ll explain with something else that used to daunt me: washing dishes. Once I’m actually standing at the sink either filling it with water or wiping a plate with a wet soapy sponge, it really is a pretty quick, simple task. However when I’m sitting on the couch or playing a computer game or whatnot, it just seems sooo far to the sink, and it will take sooo long, and I just caaan’t be bothered… you get the idea.
So, I’m a computer guy. Sure, I’m a computer guy with people skills and a bunch of great friends and… you could psychoanalyse me to the nth degree, but a big part of me doesn’t mind spending a heap of time alone with a computer, be it playing a game or configuring backup software. Spending the later hours of an evening (past my bedtime) standing around in a public place with people I don’t really know, waiting to see if other people I don’t know who might be homeless or pregnant or have three heads or equine influenza might come to talk to me… gee, that sounds a bit hard.
Actually, it’s dead easy. Perhaps a bit uncomfortable, but I rest easy in the knowledge that if I am uncomfortable, then the people who don’t have enough warm clothes for the night they’ll be sleeping out, or who are so desperate for work they’re hoping that Drug Arm volunteers get paid and who will take their CV, or are seven months pregnant and couldn’t afford dinner… well, I think they’re probably a bit less comfortable than I am, to make an understatement. I have nooo problem tithing some % of my money to God, or whomever He puts in my way to give it to. Money’s easy, comfortable to throw around – I earn plenty, I can give a fair bit away. Time is much harder. But if being uncomfortable for a few hours every few weeks goes a little way toward tackling that imbalance, I’m game.
It’s not a purely one-way street either. I have long thought that there is richness in diversity, and I think I gain as much in insight and awareness of another real part of this world when I hang out with people different to me, as much as they gain from me handing them a cup of coffee and a biscuit. My gain is more abstract but no less real.
So what do we talk about, me and these people with whom I have little more in common than our limb count (nup no three-headers yet)? Random stuff: Victoria’s rehab facilities are better than WA’s; pregnancy and smoking isn’t as bad as pregnancy and suddenly quitting; it’s funny to steal someone’s beanie on a cold night; getting a job in Perth right now is really hard, and stressful when you’ve got a pregnant wife and two children and you’re black; it sucks that the skate park shuts at 9pm. Not all of it (politically) correct, but who am I to judge?