Monday, March 10, 2014

The Volunteer

He is tall. We see him heading downtown on his tall bicycle in a T-shirt, shorts, reflective vest. It is 46 degrees, and the sun has not yet popped over the horizon.

Cars, however, have swarmed the roads heading into town, making it something of a slalom through parked vehicles when he approaches the stoplights. They are turning and have blocked the bike lane. No matter.

He will wend his way through miles of streets, dozens of stoplights like this one. He is on his way to help others who can't afford the help. He will install toilets, water heaters, replace leaky gas lines, crawl under double-wides to locate sewage leaks.

Some of the houses will be tidy, their residents grateful for his work. Others will be neglected and filthy. Some of those people will nag him about doing a better, faster, more thorough job. They will bitch. They will offer him food.

He is a young man, only eighteen, recently out of high school, living away from home, finding his way, making connections.

He is not in it for money or recognition or credit. Nobody told him to do this. He listens to a voice only he can hear.

But he is learning how to do things, how to read people, to see the range of what some people do with their lives, their triumphs, their failures, their wounds. He is getting an education.

And he watches. He is recording. Not much is lost to a young man paying attention, his mind still clear, somewhat less cluttered than it might be. He does not seek distraction, but a good story or movie or soccer game makes for a break from the grind of having to be "on."

What will he do with this time, this volunteer? And what will he make of it when he is older, looking back on how he pulled the bills from his wallet of allotted time? What will he gain for those precious days laid down on the counter of experience?

What does any of us gain from our actions done in days that show up before we are fully ready for them to pass?

I guess it depends on what you, he, or I do with the change left after the accounts are tallied.

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