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By Mike Gold 

Volunteering l Off Kilter

 


I’ve volunteered some of my time for quite a long period. It started while I was still a relatively young worker. I was working at Raytheon in Waltham, Massachusetts, building anti-aircraft missiles (ground to air).

At any rate, when the Raytheon annual picnic (for employees) came around each spring, I volunteered to dress up as a clown (some say it absolutely fits my personality – and I don’t actually have to pretend at all!) to entertain the children at the picnic. The funniest thing I can remember is one small boy looked at me and said to his mother, “There’s a man in there.” Suffice it to say, I just grinned and wore it. My photo (with a caption saying my name) appeared in the next Raytheon employee newsletter. My parents were so proud.

The next “volunteer” position was on the board of directors of the Newton, Massachusetts, youth soccer league. My job, among others, was to order the uniforms for all the teams.

One of the things I had to do was try and anticipate a good distribution of uniform sizes. Now, I challenge all of you to guess correctly the size of a bunch of 8-11 year olds. For about four years (as long as I did this job), I never got it quite right. Remember, I had to order uniforms with numbers on the back, so between trying to give each boy the number he wanted (impossible), there was a little matter of fit. No matter how many “largish-sized" uniforms I ordered, it never seemed to be sufficient.

So I then had to face a bunch of upset parents who “demanded” (not asked) why I didn’t have the right-sized (and the correct number on the back) uniform for their “precious little angel.” Frankly, I was very happy to have that job move on to the next parent.

There were the inevitable volunteer jobs for the cub scouts, brownies and the like. Again, no matter what my job was (it appeared that I became “typecast” as the go-to uniform guy), I never, ever had correct sizes for all the kids. And remember, these kids were growing like weeds as they matured from 9 year olds to 12 year olds. Again, I was very happy to bequeath this job to the next in line.

My wife and I retired to Boca Raton, Florida. We lived in a gated community which had to create a board of directors (it was a new community, so there was no “existing” board). Fortunately, the day to day running of the community was done by a property manager (who was paid). The board’s basic job was to create the rules and regulations for the residents.

A bunch of our friends convinced me to run for office. I reluctantly did so. My greatest mistake so far in volunteering.

Whenever I think back to that volunteer job, I think of a classic Seinfeld episode (search Jerry Seinfeld's parents in Del Boca Vista on Youtube).

Kramer runs for the board of directors of the retirement community. He makes the mistake of walking in the clubhouse without wearing slippers. Morty (Jerry’s father) says, “Kramer, you can’t go in the clubhouse without wearing slippers. That’s a ‘violation’ of the community rules.” Jerry observes that the people move to Florida, pretend it’s not hot, and are forced to live under a bunch of arbitrary rules.

It’s apparently a “major scandal” and almost causes Kramer to lose the election. At any rate, our board met and decided on all the rules.

One of the rules we imposed had to do with the guard gate at the entrance to the community. The board (I still don’t know why) required that the “automatic” gate – which was activated by a windshield mounted transponder – was to be shut down after 10:30 p.m. The people had to wait in line for the 24-hour guard (one of two gates) to admit them after showing proof they actually lived there. Many residents hated this, as one might have to wait as long as five minutes to be admitted to their own community. One night, about 11:30 p.m., our phone rang. It was an irate resident saying, “As long as we are inconvenienced, we thought we’d inconvenience you.”

That “term” on our board was the last one I agreed to serve on in that community.

Today, I volunteer at two senior centers. The idea is to simply have an opportunity for both seniors and others from the community to get together, meet, and talk.

Looking back, I can honestly say that volunteering is an absolute thankless task. However, I still volunteer for two reasons:

First, it often is fun and a learning experience. This morning at one meeting we heard from a woman who worked for the CIA in Vietnam back in the late ‘50s.

Second, I do like to give something back to the community – provided it is not costly for me.

And perhaps there is still an available condo at Del Boca Vista – Phase 2.

 

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