Charity Begins At Preschool

The building directly next to Arlo’s preschool is a Veterans Affairs Clinic.  Other than to remark upon the firetrucks and ambulances circling its entrance, I never thought twice about the place.

After the 118th pass however, a light bulb went off – I’m a veteran – why don’t the kids and I volunteer there?  It would be no problem taking some time every week to visit with the veterans and selfishly, let them play with my kids while I sat in a far, quiet corner, basking in my own awesomeness.  And humility.   With great conviction a few days post-hatch, I walked into the clinic, waited in line, declared my own veteran status and asked the clerk if there were any volunteer opportunities.


Whoa.  Unexpected.  Just like that, all my visions of whippersnapping and wheelchair rides went down the drain.  Aside from the joy my kids would bring to a possibly dreary environment, I miss charity work.  The fact remains however, if I can’t do it with my kids, I’m not doing it (so long awesomeness).

Watching the new season of Top Chef set in New Orleans took me back to a satisfying time volunteering with Habitat for Humanity.  After Hurricane Katrina, my friend Joyce and I went to the Ninth Ward and painted newly constructed houses.  Soon after, Kris had a work conference in NOLA (remember when everything was hosted in New Orleans to help funnel money back into its economy?) and I went with him to volunteer again.  I installed insulation under a house among other tasks, and on his day off Kris joined me and together we built a porch railing.  I had already done a few volunteer vacations with Habitat for Humanity’s Global Village but it was the first time Kris and I did something like that together and it was so gratifying we each had a cigarette after.

When the kids get older and I finally exhale, I think about getting away and resurrecting my Habitat skills.  Global Village offers short trips – Chile for eight days! –  and it sure would up my visibility quotient.  Until then, I continue to look for kid-friendly opportunities here in Madison.

Back to New Orleans, here are some more photos of the Ninth Ward, including an obscure Mardi Gras float graveyard.  How I wish I could go back with my keener eye and better camera.

Do you do volunteer work with your kids?  When did you start?  What are your tips for success?


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