What You Get When You Give
When I arrived in Los Angeles over three years ago my intention was to sign up somewhere to volunteer. I had been singing for the veterans at the VA hospital in Miami and thought I could do the same here. But with lockdown that idea went bye bye. 2021 and 2022 was all about work, work, work. Kira, an acquaintance I'd met through the Actors Fund would post regularly on her IG feed about volunteering and while it crossed my mind, I felt like there was too much going on. I preferred to concentrate on being busy.
Last week I saw Kira's post about the holidays and contacted her. She texted that there would be a toy giveaway with wrapping presents and I jumped at the chance. Lisa, the organizer, responded immediately and told me where to show up. When I arrived the next day my eyes started watering. Men, women, and children were industriously wrapping presents at different tables, all wearing smiles. Three hours later packages for 150 families were ready to be distributed. With an address and the name of the head of the household, I took packages to a two story apartment building in Van Nuys. Gladys greeted me at the gate with a smile and led me to the back. "I'd like you to meet my children." We climbed up the stairs, she opened the door and I put the bags down.
"Can I get you something to drink?" she asked, smiling.
"That's so kind but I have to leave," I said. Then she reached over and hugged me. I felt my eyes stinging. All I had done was drop off a few packages. As soon as I got to my car, the the waterworks started. I realized that as grateful as Gladys was that her four children would be getting Christmas presents, I had gotten more, so much more. From seeing all those people at Lisa and Ron's house wrapping presents to driving over and dropping them off, to the spontaneous hug from a grateful mother, my heart had opened. I had stopped worrying about what was happening in the world, the price of gas, my voiceover work. None of that was important. It was all about the interaction of people coming together and giving the best of themselves. That's what volunteer work does. You think you're helping someone out but the emotional payoff you get ends up being so much bigger. And I need that reminder. The great thing? I don't have to wait for the holidays to give back. I can volunteer all year long.
To find out more about this wonderful organization, go to: https://thelighthouse-aplaceofrefuge.org/
Thanks, Kira 😇
"You make a living by what you get. You make a life by what you give." -----Winston Churchill