I consider myself an extrovert. Contrary to popular belief,
extroverts are not just friendly and outgoing, they are people who are energized by being around other people.
Some famous extroverts. I guess it’s good company.
But that’s not always me one hundred percent of the time. And I wonder, would that then disqualify me as an extrovert? Is there such a thing as a semi-extrovert? There are simply moments when I, like everybody else, just don’t feel like being around other people.
But I’ve found that in the moments when I know I should be engaging, if I power through and activate, whether it’s going for that cup of coffee to talk shop, attending those meetups to learn something new, hitting that party to interact on a social level, or simply having that chat, what always seems to play out is that those moments result in positive outcomes.
This past Saturday I went to a Cinco de Mayo party. It was May 7th. (Pause for laughter. Although that’s really not that funny.)
I really didn’t feel like going. The party was in Jersey City and aside from the usual schlep to get there, the fact we were taking the subway on the weekend at the mercy of all those service changes, only added to the impending pain of said schlep.
Can you imagine what it would be like if you were a tourist in New York City and had to get around on the subway over the weekend? The fact is the repairs, and therefore, the service changes, are necessary evils, but those announcements and the signs. Oy, those signs.
None of them, and I repeat, none of them make any sense. Not one tourist, let alone any veteran, daily rider has any clue where they’re going to end up when they hop on any train over the weekend. But I digress.
I ended up going to the party and having a really nice time. And in the course of the evening, I met a very interesting fellow. He’s a lobbyist who had tales aplenty and I imagined the connections to boot. We hit it off. I think it had something to do with the fact we both hailed from Queens. He was from Jackson Heights and me, well I’m from Rego Park, but you knew that already. We made plans to meet up over a cup of coffee the following Friday, which was later today.
Every Friday morning, after I drop off my daughter in Chelsea, I hop right back on the train and shoot back up to 145th and St. Nicholas. I volunteer at Heritage Health and Housing that “provides health care, housing and a wide range of social and support services within a community of healing.” Specifically, I work at the Pantry giving out food to folks with HIV/AIDS who are on welfare.
I really enjoy volunteering at the Pantry. Not only do I really like the folks I work with – incredible people who work in a dingy, basement office for no glory and certainly little money – but I really enjoy interacting with our clients. (And I love that they’re called clients. In this case it’s a term used to ensure they maintain some level of dignity.)
And also, on a selfish level, it’s very zen for me. I’m completely present in what I’m doing and not concerned with any of the challenges currently going on in my life. And the reality is, while it’s all relative, my issues pale in comparison to theirs.
The Pantry items change on a weekly basis. Today, we were giving out, among other things (from all food groups), frozen dark meat chicken. Each client receives five pounds… if they want it. Which is something I wasn’t quite understanding. Why wouldn’t any of our clients take the chicken? After all, most of the other goods are canned or boxed. Here they’re getting free, fresh poultry.
So I asked Garrett and his husband, Blaine, a couple who were refusing the chicken, why they would do this. Garrett told me they passed on the chicken because they had little room in their freezer. They still had chicken left over for a couple of weeks, and didn’t want to take what they weren’t going to use for fear others might miss out. I appreciated this answer. I assumed everyone was in it for themselves – there’s usually a jockeying for position to get pantry first – and that our clients would stock up if they had the opportunity. I was clearly wrong.
Then I found out the reason they had left over chicken in their freezer was because they couldn’t cook it. They, and their neighbors, have been without gas for the last two months. And it wasn’t because they couldn’t pay. They live in government subsidized housing and the landlord just didn’t care.
Garrett followed, “and there’s no one to help us.” And without hesitation, I stepped up. “I will help you,” I said. I had no idea how I was going to do it, but I was going to help them. And I am going to help them.
Fast forward to this afternoon and coffee with my new friend. We chatted in the comfortable confines of Irving Roasters on Irving Place, far, far away from the Heritage House in Harlem. We chatted about things, and then got around to my experience earlier that day. It turns out my friend has had a lot of experience dealing with issues like this and, with a twinkle in his eye and a powerful, determined grin, said that he “LOVES doing things like this” and would “love to help me!” We slapped each other a high-five and started feeding of each other’s enthusiasm for our newest task at hand!
I am incredibly fired up to do this. I’m looking forward to working with him on it, gaining this experience and most of all, fighting for those who don’t know how or can’t fight for themselves.
I realized later on that had I not gone to the party and met my new friend, and had I not gone to volunteer that day (which is entirely optional) and learned about the challenge facing these good folks, I never would have had this opportunity.
World… it’s on!
Thanks so much for reading!
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