Sunday, September 07, 2014

I "volunteer" and keep it simple; 105-year-old Holocaust "rescuer" makes an important point

OK, today I volunteered, and it was an exercise in pure karma building.

In Arlington, the AFAC, or Arlington Food Assistance Center, has been conducting “stuff the bus” food drives with Arlington Transit busses.  After an email from AGLA, I volunteered to do the last shift, which consisted of packing and unloading the items and ‘sandbagging” then into the facility.  The green bus had been filled all day at a nearby Safeway.  The whole process took about 75 minutes.

This is one of those experiences that is impersonal.  You sign in, and initialize a liability disclaimer.  
There is a sense that you do this because you ought to (as with the National Day of Service on King Day, or a campus day of service for students). 

There’s a debate at a nearby local church as to how personal volunteering should be (even though when that church refurbishes a group home for the disabled, the clients leave for the day).  I’m not into personal interactions that are supposed to make something “all right”.  But I realize there is a downside to that attitude:  how, in a democratic society, does everything get a real chance if it is OK to exclude contact with people you somehow don’t approve of?  Think of the downstream implications.

The activity will continue next weekend.  It seems like it is mostly about building “social capital”.
At still a different church, at a potluck after service, there was a little issue when a woman with a small child took extra food to pack up and take home.  I would say, if she was low-income, that should not be an issue at all.  This is the simplest possible opportunity to help someone in need with no fluff, no politics, no over-commitment, no over-personalization, no ideology. 

I don’t usually cover TV reports on this blog, but I thought I would mention the story of Nicholas Winton, now 105, broadcast on CBS 60 Minutes tonight, link here.  Winton helped children of Jews in Czechoslovakia leave (through Germany) and get to England in 1939, until Sept. 1, when the invasion of Poland started.  But one caveat is that a child could not be booked for England until a family was found to adopt it.  This rescue has also been called the "Kindertransport".  (That became a 1998 film by Kevin MacDonald and Fran Robertson, produced by Steven Spielberg, which I saw in Minneapolis in 1998.)  Imagine the same situation today with refugees (from Central America) if it worked that way.  So have social and economic conditions favorable to “families” forming actually can be critical in the long run. 

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