Recently, I received an invitation in the mail from my son’s school. The school was planning to have a Volunteer Celebration as a way of thanking all of the people who have volunteered at the school this year. I volunteered to help out for one of the field trips so they included me on the list of people to invite.
At first, when I got the invitation, I was confused. When I had volunteered on that field trip, I did it because I WANTED to do it. Ever since Jennifer had started going to that school, I had always hoped I could volunteer in some way or another. “Volunteer work” is actually something I have on my bucket list, so I was happy when, finally, after several years, the perfect opportunity arose for me to volunteer. And I was happy to do it. It was an awesome experience and a great way for me to help out and connect with the children.
So, I was confused by this invitation. I did not volunteer to get appreciation or to be noticed. I was happy to do it. I didn’t want any attention or any kind of special recognition for volunteering. You know? I didn’t want to be singled out or have any kind of attention focused on me. I don’t WANT attention.
So for a while, as I was debating whether or not to attend, that introvert in me stood in a corner, folded her arms and said, “Don’t wanna.”
I posted about it on Facebook and family members encouraged me to go.
Fortunately, that writer in me kept poking me to go. What was such a celebration going to be like? It said there was a performance by the children; what kind of performance? What exactly would happen at such an event?
I kept puzzling over these questions. And the more I thought about them, the more I started leaning towards going. I HAD to find out just what all this fuss was about! I had to see what it was like! After all, what if I write about something like this in a future story? This was the perfect opportunity to LIVE it so I could write about it!
So, yes! I HAD to go!
And I went. I was a little, teensy-tiny bit late because it was a crazy day with lots of running around (in other words, a typical day!), but I went. And I’m glad I did!
When I arrived, one of the secretaries was surprised to learn I had done volunteer work. She cheerfully told me where the celebration was. When I got there, I walked around a bit and sort of just cased it out. It looked like everyone was just getting their dessert and getting to know each other. I noticed none of the students were present. I had thought maybe the students in certain classes would get to attend but apparently not. One of the secretaries was bringing in extra chairs and I chatted with her briefly asking about it. She said that some volunteers brought their younger kids (one of them even had a baby with her) but the students were not attending. This was just for the volunteers.
I checked out the desserts available. There were so many goodies! Lots of cookies, cake, pies, brownies and cobbler. I noticed some fresh fruit so I got a plate of that. I also got a cup of water. (They were also serving coffee but it was decaf so I passed.)
I found a table and sat down. There was a lady sitting at the table but we really didn’t talk so much. I just sat there eating fruit and looking around. There were quite a lot of volunteers! This made me feel happy that so many people helped out at the school.
Then the performance began. At first, the young kids performed, singing and dancing. One little boy danced and I really enjoyed watching him. It was SO CUTE!
After that performance, people started moving around and talking. I spent the time admiring the plants on the table. There were flowers and they had a sign in each one that read “Thank you!” I thought they were cute. One in particular caught my eye. It was a blue flower. (Later, I would be told it was a petunia.) I admired the flower then put it back, thinking how nice it would be to have such a flower at home.
Then I noticed that the lady at the table was trying to get my attention. I apologized for not seeing her and told her I am deaf. She was surprised and told me she knew a little sign language. Then it was my turn to be surprised. How cool I ended up sitting at a table with someone who knew how to sign!! That was just awesome. She asked if I could read lips and I told her yes but mostly she signed to me. She told me her sister was born deaf and they had to learn sign language to communicate with each other. I was just so grateful I could communicate with someone who could sign! All that time I was thinking I wouldn’t be able to talk to anyone at this event because I might not be able to lipread them or they wouldn’t know sign language. But here was this woman who did know it! And I had sat at her table!! Wow.
We introduced each other and talked briefly about our volunteer experiences. Then the older kids performed. More singing and dancing. It was nice to watch, especially with one kid doing a hula-hoop act.
After the second performance, I noticed it was almost time for the event to end. The lady at the table told me that we were allowed to take one of the plants at the table home with us as well as have more dessert before she left. I told her thank you for sharing that information with me and told it was nice to meet her. Then I happily picked up the blue flower, excited that I could take it home!
And I was grateful I met that lady. Get this: Her name was JENNIFER! My daughter’s name! How very cool that I chose to sit at a table with someone named “Jennifer” who knew sign language! All of a sudden, I was picturing my own Jennifer, grown up and reaching out to a deaf person and telling that deaf person she knew sign language because her mom was deaf. Somehow I think divine influence was at work here.
As I started to leave, I spent some time talking with the school staff. I also talked with the principal and gave her a hug. She noticed I only had one plant with me and encouraged me to take another. She took note of what plant I had then looked over the many on a table to find another. She did, but the flower’s stem was weak. She was discouraged by this but I still decided to take that one home as well. I don’t have a green thumb, but I love flowers and maybe I could nurse this one back to health. (I did manage to do that, later. Yay!)
I said my goodbyes to everybody then left the school. I am so glad I attended the Volunteer Celebration. And, you know what? I wasn’t singled out or given attention for the volunteer work I did. Actually, the ones who got all the attention and were in the spotlight were the children performing for us. Thank you, children!