Jun 182010

Worst thing about being unemployed: No money.

Second worst: Feeling like I’m not contributing anything. I’ve often bitched to Alpha Geek that I feel useless.

“But you maintain the house, take care of the kids, pay the bills,” countered Alpha Geek. “That has enormous value—if you weren’t doing that, I couldn’t do what I do that brings us money.”

“But that’s stuff I always did, even when I was working. Now I’m not working and I feel useless.”

“Maybe you should volunteer somewhere.”

“I do volunteer somewhere. I help out at the homeless shelter two days a week.”

“Then you’re not useless.”

I started helping out at the homeless shelter around the beginning of the year. Many people were losing their homes, and it seems to have struck a nerve with me—there but for the grace of $DEITY go I, and all that sort of thing. We’ve got family, and friends who are like family, who could help us out if our financial situation tanked. Others didn’t have that safety net, and turned to shelters.

There are about a dozen shelters in Raleigh, with varying policies on who can stay for how long. Some are men-only, a few are women-only, and others are for anyone who needs them—as long as there’s room. Most of them work with churches and community groups to provide programs for getting residents out of the shelter and back into homes of their own.

I’m helping out at one of the oldest and largest shelters. Since it’s so well-established, it has a lot of services available in addition to beds and meals: a medical staff, a GED program, a child care center. Since the weather began heating up, the shelter has been providing big coolers of water just outside the door so people can come get a drink whenever they need one. Often while I’m helping out in the kitchen I’ll hear over the PA system: “Attention kitchen, the water coolers need to be refilled. Thank you!”

Some of the guys I work with are volunteers, like me, and others are shelter residents who want to work and be useful, like me. Unless they tell me, I don’t know which. They’re all great people to work with, and seem genuinely glad to have me helping out.

If I can’t work for money, I’ll work for free, dammit.

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