Street Van Experiences

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?

Experts? Professionals?

My wife is a brilliant, insightful, passionate, integral, trained professional in the often under appreciated human services industry. She spends her 9-5 M-F hours being part of the solution to the world’s problems. I could certainly feel a bit intimidated by that, when it comes to contributing in some way myself. I don’t though, because I’m not convinced it matters.

Something I (re-)discovered at the week in Dunsborough , was that I don’t need to be an expert, or even anything close to one. Three reasons jump out at me:

  1. There are so many areas of need in the world, and there aren’t anywhere near enough experts to be doing all of the tasks. The only trait I really need is willingness – all else will follow. A team can accomplish much more than an individual, so all I have to do is find a team who will take me. This has turned out to be remarkably easy. See my first post 🙂
  2. Doing something I’m not good at, results in getting better at it! I get a broader experience of life, and a taste of something I might find out to be enjoyable or fulfilling.
  3. My biblical referencing is shaky enough as to not bother (an exercise for the reader perhaps)[1], but God uses our weaknesses as a fulcrum for His strength. When I’m doing something that I’m not confident at, I find it much easier to rely on prayer and let go of my proud insistence that I can do it without anyone’s help, thankyouverymuch. It makes for good teamwork too.

[1] Ok I cheated. Google gave me this message board post which gave me 2 Corinthians 12:10. Hooray for someone else’s biblical referencing.

Vomit

Nope, my first post isn’t abstractly titled, it is indeed somewhat about vomit. I’ve just arrived home from a week in Dunsborough, helping with DrugARM at this year’s Leavers Program. I’m a little surprised to be able to say that I wasn’t actually surprised by anything I saw. It was four nights of working 6pm-2am, employing pretty basic first aid and generally being part of the Leavers Program team of some 300 people, mostly volunteers.

I really didn’t know what to expect, but in the end, our recovery tent was a fairly unsurprising, albeit unpleasant, room full of the small potion of school leavers who really didn’t approach drugs (mostly alcohol – yes, alcohol is a drug) with any sensibility. I’m pleased to note that just about all of these young people hadn’t had any dinner, so while that meant they felt that much worse, it also meant their vomit came out almost entirely as liquid – much less unpleasant to clean up! Am I laissez-faire about vomit now? I sure am, after cleaning up some litres of it in the past four days.

Another observation: There were some amazing kids in the Leavers Zone, especially the lucid ones we saw. Their friends had stupidly got themselves trashed beyond any chance of a fun night, but they hung around, sat with them, held buckets, tied back hair, even risked their midnight driving curfew to come back and collect them. It’s awesome that these kids have such good friends supporting them.

Ok that’ll do for a first post. I’m not normally great at being concise – I sure could go on an awful lot about the week I’ve just had. Perhaps blogging will be good practice in brevity.