Three reasons you may be nervous about volunteering with Clare Housing — February 12, 2014
Three reasons you may be nervous about volunteering with Clare Housing… And why you don’t need to be.
It’s natural to be nervous whenever you try something new, and despite your best intentions, volunteering for Clare Housing may make you jittery. Here’s why you have nothing to fear.
Anxiety 1: I’m not an Iron Chef.
Don’t worry: nobody is expecting you to be. Volunteers need to remember that they’re cooking in a home, not a restaurant. The residents aren’t looking for culinary dazzle. They want comfort food: simple and unintimidating. Whatever you like to make for yourself and your family is more than fine. Only have a few meals you make well? No problem. You come once a month, so repeats are welcome. Can’t boil water? Get take out. The residents like Chipotle as much as the rest of us. Remember, just as in your own home, meals are less about food and more about companionship. Don’t let the cooking keep you from forming friendships that really matter.
Anxiety 2: What if I somehow catch it?
Being around any seriously ill person can feel scary and the longtime hysteria and misinformation surrounding AIDS only adds to our apprehension. Plus, accidents happen in kitchens: what if one of the residents happens to cut himself with a knife and you happen to cut yourself with the same knife and then— STOP WORRYING; THIS IS NEVER GOING TO HAPPEN. I have cut myself with a knife at Grace House. I washed myself up, put on a bandage, and went on cooking. Some bizarre combination of unlikely events is not going to conspire to infect you. The fear of getting sick is a very natural one, but in this case, not a rational one. After you’ve come to cook once or twice, I promise the thought will never cross your mind again.
Anxiety 3: What if I make friends with one of the residents and my friend dies?
In the three years I’ve been cooking at Grace House, three of my friends have died. I know sooner or later more of my friends will follow them. And I know that reality seems very scary when you have little experience with the terminally ill. I don’t know how everyone will respond to this reality; I just know how I have dealt with it. For more than a year, I was very afraid about how I would respond when the first of my friends died. I thought, perhaps, I wouldn’t be able to come back. But when the day came, I found it easy to accept. When someone is already dying from the first day you meet, the end isn’t shocking when it comes. You’re sad, but not more sad than grateful that you had an opportunity to know the person at all. You appreciate them more because you know each dinner might be their last. You let them go gently, because you always knew you would have to. And you keep coming back because you have other friends who are still at the table, happy to see you.
It’s okay to be nervous. I know I was. But if you give it a try, you’ll soon feel at home. And you’ll help make a home for people who need it.