I feel embarassed when people ask me what I am doing for Christmas. Because when I say I am doing some shifts for Crisis, it feels as though I am asking for some recognition of my philanthropy. The truth is that I get so much more out of doing it than I give. This post is about what an honour it is and how special it makes Christmas.
Two 7 hour shifts are all you are asked to commit to. It really is not a big deal. You can do as much, and get involved as much as you choose. And if it really is not for you, you don't have to stay.
The emphasis on shifts is to alleviate any divide between volunteers and guests. It gives you a safe environment and opportunity to talk to people you probably never would do otherwise. It makes you appreciate your own life and the good decisions you have made. I have met so many wonderful people in the two years I have done it, volunteers and guests have touched my life in a most magical way.
One of the things that has really moved me this year has been seeing people queue for an hour to shower and then taking an hour to shower! because it's something we take for granted. Equally, seeing the smiling proud faces emerging from the hair salon with shiny fresh cut locks. Some of these people rarely feel the touch of another person.
And then there is the luggage store where some people trust you with everything they own. It is full of shopping trolleys, suit cases, hold alls and bin bags. We are warned in our briefing to always check inside bin bags before assuming they are to be skipped. The shift leader has spent many hours on recovery missions in the skip.
But the best bit is the chatting. I like to chat and I waffle incessantly when I am nervous. Some guests are really funny, some are real bulls*%$rs, some are really intellectual, some are flirtatious and some have mental health issues. Gola uses the most wonderful language completely out of context and groups everything into paired lists of opposites. 'Subjective' and 'Objective' are one of his favourite groupngs. Steve is saracastic with a black sense of humour and a heart of gold. One Eastern European guest was very keen to touch the ladies bums! But while he was very vocal about this desire, he did not force his wishes on the objecting females. I would know his name too if it had not been for the fact that I wanted to offer those hands no encouragement. Tracey has a son that was taken into care. Last year she told me he was four. This year he was still four. I wonder how old he really is and if time has stood still for her since she lost him?
And then there is John the poet who wants every volunteer and guest to add him on facebook. I am not breaking my facebook resolution for anyone, no matter how they touch my heart! But I encourage you to add him: http://www.johnsmallshaw.com
Say Amanda sent you ;)