Friday, August 14, 2009

Weekend Assignment #280: Volunteers

Okay, we had zero responses to last week's Weekend Assignment. Perhaps this will be more to your liking - or not:

Weekend Assignment: #280: Have you ever been actively involved in a campaign or a cause, to the point of doing more than just donating or voting? Tell us about the phone calls, the food drive, the charity walk or other civic-minded work you've done, if any. And if you've never done this sort of thing, why not? (It's okay if you haven't - I'm just interested in the reasons.)
Extra Credit: Do you have a favorite charity? Which one?
Extra credit first. I'm rather fond of the Red Cross. And St. Michael's of course.

Years ago, John Scalzi had a volunteer-related Weekend Assignment, but I don't think it was this particular question. I doubt anyone really cares if I recycle a four-year-old idea, not when the whole meme is on the verge of extinction.


I had a call last week from the local Democratic Party, asking if I'd be willing to do data entry work again over at their HQ. I said I'd be in on Friday afternoon. The day got away from me, though, adding two more chapters to the saga of my unemployment claim. (Short version: you don't qualify for the new claim after all, so a supervisor will reinstate the extension instead. Hey, wait: what's all this income you've been reporting since the beginning of June? Oh, that changes everything; you qualify for the new claim after all. What's the exact name and tax number of your church? It's not in our database. No, that number isn't long enough. Well, we'll get it in there, but it will take longer. Sorry.) So I didn't actually make it to HQ until after 4 PM, when it was nominally closed.

That didn't stop me.

The local coordinator, Gil, put me to work anyway, showing me the software (which I used in a slightly different form last fall) and giving me a stack of paper petitions (sort of) to enter. There was to be a sign-making party at 5 PM, but the data entry was more helpful than waiting around for five o'clock would be. As if turned out, it was more helpful than me making signs, too. There were plenty of other people to do that, people with far more manual dexterity than I have. But I was the only one in place at that moment to catch up with the record-keeping. Besides (and I didn't mention this at the time), I had no brilliant ideas for sign slogans, especially within the parameters given.

What were the signs for? President Obama is the short answer to that question. He's going to address the VFW in Phoenix on Monday morning. The signs are about Tucsonans and other people from Baja Arizona (a joke term for the Democratic/relatively liberal part of the state) welcome Obama and supporting his health care plan.

Thing is, I've been watching all this malarkey unfolding on tv for weeks and weeks now, people getting all upset and nasty, yelling and carrying fearful, hate-filled signs, mostly because they've swallowed a series of lies from a noxious cocktail of racists, lunatic fringe types and people with a political or financial interest in the status quo. No death panels are proposed or contemplated. Health care will not be rationed. (In fact this will help stop the insurance companies from the rationing they do now in their quest for profits.) Nobody is making you pull the plug on grandma. There is nothing in the fill to cause the government to pay for abortions, or sex change operations, to get between you and your doctor, drive the insurance companies out of business, drive small businesses out of business, take away your Medicare, or turn this country into a totalitarian state. The best argument anyone can make, short of a bald-face lie, is a "yeah, but" argument. "Yeah, but, if this passes, they'll add all that stuff later!" Um, no.

I'm not an argumentative or confrontational person. Calling a stranger on the phone practically gives me an anxiety attack. A Republican and a Democrat loudly interrupting each other on tv will make me turn the tv off. When John wants me to explain a religious belief - my own or someone else's - I want to run screaming from the room. I hate strife and standoffs and ill-will. And this aversion to conflict tends to make me a bit of a moral coward. Just the other night, I took a Facebook poll about whether people stand by the votes they cast last November in the Presidential election or would chance them today. (From what I saw, almost everyone stood by their choices.) The poll had a comment wall, and I made the mistake of looking at if. It had more than a few rather nasty anti-Obama remarks, some so incoherent I couldn't even tell what the poster was trying to say beyond "Obama = bad." I hesitated before adding my own, mild comment about right-wingers believing lies rather than discussing the real issues involved in health care reform. But I wrote it, and nothing bad happened. On the other hand, I didn't revisit that comment wall. Who needs that stress?

But that's not much of a contribution to the cause - me and my paragraph vs. any number of ill-informed shouters on tv. So I was glad to come in and volunteer, even if it was just a little data entry, even if it was late in the day.

And then.

"Do you have a camera?"

The question wasn't directed at me. It was Gil asking someone else who worked in the office.

"Want to borrow mine?" I said. I reached into my bag and brought out my trusty Canon.

Gil was amazed and pleased.

"I never go anywhere without it," I explained.

So Gil took a couple of pictures, and when I finished entering my stack of pages I took a bunch more. Here are the best of them. Maybe they'll contribute to the cause, somehow. And I didn't have to make a single phone call.

How about you? Have you worked for a candidate, or run for the cure? Helped out at your church? Organized a blood drive? Worked in a shelter or soup kitchen? Done dentistry in a remote Guatemala village? Sold Girl Scout cookies? Tell us about it in your blog, and please, please include a link back to this entry. I'll be back next Friday with a roundup of your responses.

And if, like this past week, nobody participates, you will instead see an announcement of the demise of the Weekend Assignment. Sorry, John Scalzi, I tried to keep it going. Really I did. But after writing 80-something entries continuing the meme you started, I may have to admit that it's a lost cause. I seem to be running dry on crowd-pleasing questions, and haven't had any good topic suggestions in a while now.




barrettmanor said...

I must have missed last week's Weekend Assignment. Might have had something to do with my computer blowing up real good...

I'll try my best to do something on this one. Sorry about that.

barrettmanor said...

Okay. Decided to write something before hitting the sack. Yeah, I'm going to bed early on a Saturday. To read.

Here ya go:

Anonymous said...

Having followed the US debate on healthcare I’m astonished by the amount of disinformation about the NHS being peddled by right wing groups. As if having free universal healthcare is somehow a bad thing.
The argument is false anyway as, from what I gather, Obama is not even suggesting anything approaching a British system.


Anonymous said...

I should qualify that last statement. It may resemble the NHS in that he is offering an insurance scheme but the likeness would be on a superficial level only. By its very nature any scheme would have to take into account the current system of health insurance and the whole infrastructure which goes with it (drug supply etc.) and the individual needs of the US, which are specific to that country. A sensible debate would help.

Florinda said...

I'm sorry I missed last week, but I'm here for this one.

Florinda said...

If you're considering participating in the Alzheimer's Memory Walk, Tucson's is taking place on October 17 (the same day I'll be walking in Thousand Oaks, CA) at Gene C. Reid Park. More details are here.

Karen Funk Blocher said...

Memory Walk in my favorite park in October, huh? I'm going to seriously consider it. Thanks!

Mike said...

Okay, I'm up now. I've never volunteered per se, but I've had something to do with an election in the past.