Sunday, February 26, 2017

I would never have guessed

Two summers ago, four years after I retired, I took on a couple of part-time paying jobs: One was as lead mediator (one of four to six) at small claims court in my Washington town. After a couple of months of mentoring, I worked for about three hours every other Tuesday for $60. I would have done it for free. The other was as liaison between the 27 Massage Envy clinics in the Puget Sound area and the State Massage Board. I attended meetings every other month, for $250 a meeting. I would have done that for free also.

Last summer, both of the jobs ended. The Dispute Resolution Center decided they wanted a lead mediator who lived in my county full time. I spend the winter months in Tucson and travel at other times. And my one-year liaison contract concluded. I had no idea what I would do next. It was a little disconcerting. "Is this all there is?" went through my head.

Then I had an opportunity to meet up with an old friend, Jenean, to volunteer for six days at Oinofyta, a refugee camp in Greece. It was a life-changing experience. I was the oldest volunteer by 15 years. I didn't have the stamina of the others. But I was on-the-ground useful. At the end of my stay, Lisa Campbell, the camp manager, told me she'd appreciated my calm presence and she hoped I would come back. She asked me if I knew how to set up accounting books. I said yes. She asked if I could set up Do Your Part's books - that's the American nonprofit she heads up at Oinofyta. I said yes. It was volunteer work and that was fine.

I went back to the camp for two weeks in October. Most of the time I was sitting in the project office working on the books. But not always. Again, on-the-ground, in-the-moment experiences.

Three days after I got back from this second trip to Greece my husband Art and I flew to Tucson, where we spend the winter. In the midst of our activities there, I worked on the camp books. Then Board of Directors of Do Your Part elected me treasurer. It is still volunteer work and I am still fine with it.

I wanted to spend a month at Oinofyta in the spring of 2017, and I talked Art into going with me as part-time handyman, errand runner, shopper and cook for the volunteers. And my 37-year-old son James wanted to go too. "I have a privileged life and I want to do this," he told me. "Besides, Mom, it will be a great bonding experience with you." He will do whatever is needed at the camp.

Yesterday I talked to Lisa. While I am at Oinofyta in late March and early April, Lisa is coming to the US for two weeks for a couple of fundraising speaking events - one in Salt Lake City, the other in Boston. She asked me if I'd be willing to relieve her as project manager for the camp while she's away. I said yes.

So here I am, a 68-year-old retired woman, going to Greece next month to relieve a refugee camp manager for two weeks. Also at the camp are two extraordinary volunteer shift managers, half a dozen or so other volunteers from around the world, and 650 refugees in residence, mostly from Afghanistan. I speak no Farsi or Greek, but I am fluent in the language of compassion and care. I am trusting that will be enough.

I would NEVER have guessed I'd be having these experiences. When I thought about what I'd like to do in retirement, reading and travel came to mind. Not volunteering in refugee camps in Europe. I used to set goals and work towards them. Now I say yes to what comes along. So far I am amazed. And grateful.


Janette said...

They are lucky to have you! Do good and come home with a smile!

Linda Reeder said...

And courageous! And obviously Lisa recognized your skill and leadership qualities. How wonderful it will be to share this experience with your husband and son.

Barb said...

And you'll probably learn some Greek or Farsi along the way. You have found your "place" at least for now. Good for you.

joared said...

Sounds like this will be quite and experience for you. Am sure the help you're able to provide will be appreciated.

DJan said...

This is so exciting, Linda! I look forward to hearing how it all turns out. You are a very courageous and talented person, and I'm privileged to know you. :-)

Arkansas Patti said...

You really set the bar high for giving back. Look forward to hearing your account. Be safe and happy.

Deb Shucka said...

That door sure opened wide for you!

Cynthia, Amsterdamned. said...

"I have a privileged life and I want to do this,"
It is no surprise that this came from someone you raised.

I am always inspired by your perspective and willingness to put yourself out there with just enough knowledge and a plane ticket, and leave the rest up to the rest. It shows assurance that you have the necessary resources within you to handle whatever may come your way even if you have no knowledge of what that may be. Not even a hint.

This could not have come at a better time, Linda. I am applying to grad schools in the Netherlands. I have really no plan on how I am going to work all that should I be accepted. But I am so excited I dont even care. I'll cross that bridge (on a bike, going too fast as usual) when I get to it.

Keep your letters coming.

Linda said...

linda, this is an amazing story. Just shows what can come your way if you're open to new experiences. Good for you.

Tom said...

Your work in Greece sounds interesting, challenging and extremely helpful. It's funny, though. I always say that if they paid me to do my volunteer tutoring at the community college, I wouldn't do it ... because what they'd pay me would be an insult to me and to the work. But do it for free? Sure. Because the kids do value and appreciate what all of us tutors do. And that's the payment that counts.

Barbara said...

Amazing story. We still have a lot to give, it is just finding the right fit that is sometimes difficult.

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