High School wasn’t my finest hour. As a freshman at a small private Quaker school in Washington DC, there were many ways students could distinguish themselves. While everyone seemingly made their mark, apparently the time allotted for me to uncover the latent talents within was insufficient. I was the average in every way. Having been almost invisible for 4 years, the senior yearbook staff was clearly challenged to find a tag line that summed me up. Even I knew that ‘Most Likely to Succeed’ was off the table and so was ‘Best Dressed’ embarrassingly enough. But you have to give them credit for a little insight as I was named “Least Likely to Volunteer”.
Suffice it to say, we all find our way through life, but some phases take longer than others. In retrospect, many of us learn that what really imbues our lives with meaning is not the usual markers of success, material gain, professional accomplishments and fame, but instead we are measured by the difference we’ve made in the lives of those around us. I’m a changed man now, which is why I joined Rotary. I wanted to be part of a team. A group of people who also discovered the great secret of happiness…doing for others.
When at a recent VOM Rotary meeting a call went out for volunteers at the Redwood Empire Food Bank, I was ready to say yes. It turns out to have been one of the most rewarding experiences of the year. Under the leadership of visionary David Goodman, the REFB has become THE leader in addressing our number one problem. One in six county residents don’t get enough to eat. Right here, in our midst? Well, it takes more than a village. Actually it takes 8,500 volunteers to help package, box and distribute 9.1 million pounds of fresh produce every year. It is an amazing organization that distributes food to 12 innovative hunger relief programs and 170 partner organizations. So, there I was pulling up to REFB central at 9 one recent Saturday. There were about 10 of us from VOM as well has another 25 from other Rotary clubs. Our energetic leader led us to a packing room filled with 10 bins of plums and pears. We began filling 5 lb. bags and before long had organized ourselves into a
team with assembly line precision. The laughter and energy that emerged set the tone and gave me a new insight into the concept of community. Like the old barn raisings, it was powerful lesson in what happens when people come together for a purpose. Almost half a ton of packaged fruit later, we had learned a powerful lesson. I can’t recommend it highly enough and plenty of opportunities await. Two to three-hour shifts are available to volunteers in the warehouse, kitchen, distribution center or food connection office. The thanks we received were nothing compared to the gratitude I felt for the invitation. Give Money, Give Time, Give Food. I’ll be back.