I swear this isn’t a complaint just an observation that I haven’t pulled together yet- Sara Sweeney

I park my car around back. Grab my purse.
Laptop, phone, wallet, keys. I haul these personal belongings
’round the front of the building. Begrudgingly, I jam the little metal shitstick
into the keyhole that never seems to like a key on the first try.
Two sets of doors to protect the precious archived belongings of Routt County, so I work the shitstick again, hearing the chimey bells jingle when I get the door to move.

I walk through the customer’s part of the museum, into the back of the building where the lights are still off.
Say hi to my boss in the kitchen, briefly chat about the weather, or our weekends, or what she left on my desk this morning for me to get to this afternoon.

I climb upstairs, boots not-clanking on the carpet steps but jacket zipper clangin’ on my arm. I get to my desk, open up my apple macbook, log into Facebook (and my email), and start scrolling for the day.

A few minutes go by and if by then I hadn’t gotten distracted by social media, I’m working on a task.
Entering emails into a database.
Searching the phonebook for fresh mailing addresses.
Writing thank-you cards.
Cutting flyers on the flat-top blade machine.
Stapling.
Stapling, oh my god, stapling.
Encapsulating files into mylar, or acid-free folders.
Letter or legal size, I decide.
Scissors, tape, and my young, precise vision are my best tools at work.

Two hours later, I trudge down the stairs again, a little chilly, and let the lights on– flipping switches, unrolling the American flag. Switching the “closed” sign to “open” and cheerily greeting whomever the volunteer is this morning.

Sometime around noon, Patrick, the museum’s handyman, comes by. His to-do list sits at my desk. We always exchange more than a “hi.” Ten minutes of academic conversation and a forced see-you-tomorrow.

By now, the afternoon projects sink in.
I befriend again the photo-database computer. Tucked away near a window and cluttery desks (wires, scratch notes, cd-roms, dvds, piles of manilla folders, perhaps another stapler I’ve blocked out of my visual memory)..
Some point or another I go say hi — happily– to the afternoon volunteer.

How many times do I go to the bathroom a day? six, maybe? Certainly not because I drink all that much water. I just need a change of scenery and my-oh MY those gorgeous white walls and tiled floors are just the medicine.

Soon enough, 4:45 rolls in and I begin working on the close-down. Take the change bag to the front desk, count out the remaining money, lock the door behind the volunteer. Say bye to my co-worker. Get in my car, hauling my fancy gadgets, and drive away.

Many, many times in my work placement I’ve been sparked with the thought, “This isn’t service.”

“It’s more like an internship than real service,” I’m eager to say to anyone who asks about my placement with the Colorado Episcopal Service Corps.

What is real service, anyway?

I’m quick to think of all the ways I fall short in my experience this year. Am I living simply? Am I making a difference? Am I becoming spiritually-centered? Am I spending my time in service?

“The first ten lines are a clearing of the throat.”
a poetry professor once said to me. I apply it to all my writing– including this one (which isn’t a poem, don’t be fooled). “Be patient when you’re writing, the real material begins. the energy picks up, just when you think it’s over.”

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