It Starts With Each of Us
35-Day Author Blogging Challenge – Day 6
Shortly before four o’clock, I arrived at the local fairgrounds and met the woman in charge of volunteers. She welcomed me politely and asked what I’d feel most comfortable doing.
“I can do almost anything – except give change to patrons. I don’t think a vision-impaired person would do that very fast, and I know you have a crowd here,” I said with a broad smile. “Gotta move ’em in and out.”
“No, we have someone doing that,” the organizer said hastily.
My sponsor remarked, “That would be me.”
As a new “lion,” my Lions Club sponsor had asked me if I wanted to help her club who operated a chicken barbecue stand every year. With customers lined up all the way to the main fairground even before we opened, I could see this was the place to have dinner. It was also the Lions biggest fundraiser of the year.
It sounded like fun, and besides, maybe my family would even come to eat there. I wouldn’t have to cook! On the way in, we’d talked about me putting the applesauce and bread on the trays.
“Uh…” the organizer bit her lip. “I have a high school student doing the applesauce. Can you handle the … bread?”
“Of course I can. Unless you really want me to give out change.”
I folded up my white cane and set it down somewhere in the kitchen–quite likely in the way as the place swarmed with volunteers–and waited for more instructions.
None were forthcoming. I prompted her when it seemed she’d forgotten me.
The woman appeared slightly disconcerted and finally replied, “Why don’t you have a seat?” She guided me outside and I sat down with three men who had been grilling the chicken.
We chatted a bit and they went back to work.
Why was I sitting there when they were obviously preparing for an onslaught of people?
I got up and wandered into the kitchen. “Should I wash up?”
A volunteer showed me the sink and indicated I was to put on some over sized plastic gloves.
“These gloves remind me of when I used to serve lunch at the City Mission,” I mentioned to put the organizer at ease. “I’m an old hand at this.”
She bustled me to a narrow table and put me on the end. Underneathr were several enormous trays filled with loaves of bread. My job was to place two pieces of bread in the left-hand corner of a Styrofoam meal tray, 3 if they were small. “Put the heels at the end of the tray and I’ll collect them. I’ll cut the bread bags open like this, ” she explained, slicing the top plastic with an exacto knife.
“Okay, ready,” I said, rubbing my hands together. Since I prepared our meals at home each evening, I could certainly handle slapping a couple of slices of bread on a tray. I was the second cog in the assembly line. My job was to place the bread over three pats of butter then pass it on to the teenager whose placed a cup of applesauce beside my bread.
Once we started, the customers continuously flowed in. Breaks came and went but I wasn’t interested. I got in the groove and didn’t want to disturb my routine.
The next three hours flew by.
“Naked bird!” shouted the woman taking orders from the front line. “Two baked potatoes, please!” came her cry a minute later.
Oftentimes, they received take-away orders and I hustled with extra bread their way.
We worked together like a well-oiled machine. Toward the end of the evening, I worked side by side with the organizer. Everything went smoothly. She seemed relaxed and even joked as the number of chicken dinners dwindled.
The only glitch came when a teenager left to operate the BINGO booth and one of the men took her place. In typical guy-fashion, he switched the routine by stacking the Styrofoam meal boxes on top of each other in opposite directions.
Ah! Where’s the left-hand corner? I hoped I wouldn’t topple over the trays. The pats of butter were hard to see with the trays facing different directions.
Too shy to voice my difficulty, I stuck out a hesitant hand and felt for the butter, eased the tray down, and continued loading the bread. It wasn’t as easy but it was do-able.
After handing out approximately 650 half chickens, we sold out.
“Ah, No way! I came to the fair just for your chicken!”
“You gotta be kidding!”
My sponsor and I stayed for another hour to clean up. I color-coded pies with yellow stickers for the next day, washed and dried trays, wiped down counter tops. threw away garbage and joked along with the other volunteers.
Soon, it was time to leave. One of the cooks came to me. “Thank you for volunteering. You did great!”
The organizer said, “Can I hug you? You did an outstanding job tonight!”
On the way home, my Lion sponsor said, “I don’t know if you picked up on it or not but this was probably the first time some of these people ever met or worked alongside a vision-impaired person.”
“No, I didn’t notice. I was too busy arranging bread on top of the butter.”
She went on. “I told them not to treat you any differently.”
I liked to serve. It felt natural to pitch in with the other Lion Club members. I didn’t consider how having me among them might make them feel uncomfortable. My cane in the kitchen was a bold reminder to how I was different. Working fast was critical. They didn’t know how much sight I had. I could understand how it might make someone anxious. I had done a few service-oriented tasks with my own Lions Club. I wondered if they, too, had felt the same anxiety at first.
Even a job that small served a purpose. And I don’t mean in the food line. It served to close a gap I didn’t even know existed.
It felt good to volunteer. It felt even better to know I was changing perceptions toward those in the vision-impaired community. We have so much to offer and only need the opportunity to show it.
I thought back to when I extended my hand to the three cooks. “I’m Amy. Nice to meet you.” They each shook my hand. That simple gesture pushed us past the sight issues. We talked about my dad, whom they knew and admired. To me, that symbolized our accomplishment. I recalled the words of my mobility instructor. “Your blindness is one characteristic, like having brown hair.” I finally started to grasp his words.
The real deal is what you do with you what you have and move beyond the physical differences to common interests.
Have you ever changed the way people thought about someone or something by your actions? Did you expect that outcome or did it happen by chance? Shared it in the Comments below.
You have just read, “Bridging Gaps,” by Amy L. Bovaird. September 18, 2015. Please like and be sure to comment on this post!