7 min read

volunteering and family

volunteering and family

I met Ted today on account of a low level of anxiety over having my house presentable for our annual family holiday gathering. That and a peed on stair. It's funny how certain things happen that set the universe into motion to put something in front of you that you were meant to have in front of you. Today, that was Ted.

Ted's journey into my day all began when we were trying to figure out how to manage our dogs during the work day. Both my wife and I worked and my daughter (our last child at home) didn't get home until almost 4pm. Let me preface this with a statement. I have no problem with people that kennel their dogs during the day. In order for the dog(s) and the family to coexist, sometimes kennels play an important part in the arrangement. We were close to considering a kennel. We still haven't ruled it out. However, we tend to project ourselves into the dogs' lives and think how depressing a kennel would be for us. One of our two dogs is especially nervous and anxious when placed in a kennel.

So kennels were out for the time being.

We put them in one of the bedrooms vacated after one of our older children moved out. It has a laminate wood floor and was clear of anything the dogs could get into. That was fine for a while except the room just started smelling like dog. That and one pee accident and the laminate floor was in danger of damage. We cleaned it up, gave the dogs a bath and tried again. Maybe we need to wash the dogs more often but this didn't seem to be a good long term solution. We planned on turning that room into a guest room soon anyway and didn't want the dogs in there.

We tried blocking off the stairs and the living room so they could roam in the kitchen. The kitchen is linoleum but the hall is laminate. Should they make a mess in the hall we face the same problem. Well, it became a moot point when one or both of them knocked down the barrier to the downstairs and chose to pee on the bottom stair. When I got home and determined what had happened we had to seriously consider the kennel. I also scrubbed and dried that stair three times to really get the smell out.

Unfortunately our nervous dog took that as a signal that the house now had a "patch of grass" on which to pee. If we weren't diligent in letting him out, he wouldn't come tell us - he'd just go "to the park", "do his duty" and "piss me off" (literally?). So we had to bring in professional help.

Enter Ted.

I stayed home from work on that Tuesday in preparation for the visit. My wife had set up the cleaning so I did not know who was coming as I had not taken the time to get the details. Without implicating myself, let me say this is normal for me. My daughter was home sick and the offending puppies stayed curled up in her room while Ted came in and got started.

To their credit, they peeped not a whit. They kept quiet as a stranger's voice could be heard throughout the house. They said nothing while Ted worked not 5 feet from their door on the top stair. Granted, it wasn't their stair of choice, but it was a loud noise coming from right outside their girl's room that they usually would get noisy about.

Come to think of it, maybe they weren't doing their job. Maybe they're broken. That would explain a lot.

I decided to do some other cleaning in the kitchen while Ted did his thing. I took in the latest podcast from Tim Ferriss - my favorite life hacker - and got some work done. Let me go on a tangent for just a moment.

Tim Ferriss is not a perfect human being. But you already know they don't exist. In my opinion, he is, however, perfectly vulnerable and humble in his approach to the art of "knowing". He has learned a lot and has squeezed the essence of excellence from many an individual through his searching and incorporated bits and pieces of others into who he is. But all along the way he claims to not know everything or even much and continues to say he is not the end all-be all source of information on anything he talks about. He advocates individuals (like me) to go out and try on the coats he is trying on if they wish and see what fits. He encourages his listeners and readers to make their own judgement after doing their own research. He is a smart, smart man with his share of personal demons that he gives glimpses of through his work. That is what I call perfectly vulnerable. He is not a victim. He is not a messiah. He is a flawed human trying to find and stay on his path. That is me too.

My point is, when you find someone who is highly successful at what they do, you don't follow them as a guru. You observe them. Yes, you carefully ("full of care") judge them, and you wisely and intentionally select pieces of wisdom from them and tailor those pieces to your life. Following a single person doesn't work. We are made up of bits and pieces of hundreds if not tens of thousands of other people we've learned from. This helps us be resilient to rough weather and to hero worship. This is my take on how to design a healthy life for YOU, the individual. Don't be a sheep.

Ok. I'm back.

As Ted was wrapping up the cleaning and beginning to put his equipment away I interrupted his routine by asking him to take part in my blog. I asked him what two important things he held in his life would help the world be a better place if shared with the world. I am going to do my best to reproduce what he said. Ted, if I get anything wrong, please let me know.

The word "volunteering" came out almost immediately. He shared how he volunteers at a facility that takes care of cancer patients. He has worked with "chemo-buddies" for about 7 or 8 years. I asked him how he first got involved in volunteering and he shared that he had cancer at one point and knew how rough it was and didn't want others to feel alone.

He spoke of a camp called Camp Ukandu. It is a camp where these kids with various levels of sickness can spend a week being a kid - not a cancer patient. Through the volunteer efforts of many, many people, over 100 kids spend a week doing your typical camp activities that leave kids exhausted and giggling late into the night. The ratio of adults (caregivers and counselors) to kids is almost 1:1 which is amazing. As Ted was describing the organization and the feelings he had and was able to see expressed in the kids I got a little choked up. I didn't let on to Ted. Hmmmm....maybe I could have and everything would have been fine. Something to meditate on.

I asked him how soon into his first volunteering experience did he know he liked it. He said that first day. After all, he has been doing this for over 7 years now - something must have clicked!

He shared with me that at Camp Ukandu, these doctors oftentimes are taking vacation time to spend out at the camp. They work their long hours in the clinics and hospitals then come to help some more. I held back a tear hearing that too. Of course, this goes for the nurses, the adults - all the volunteers. Many used personal time to make this magic happen.

Sadly, Ted lost his first chemo-buddy to cancer. He was a 12 year old who originally had his leg amputated at the knee to try and save him, but it came back and spread like cancers can do.

We talked for about 10 minutes about his volunteering. He volunteers at two other places (I think. I should really ask to record audio for these interviews...) as well. Having been so engrossed in his time spent with the kids at the camp, I wasn't sure if he explicitly said what his second thing was. He had mentioned his wife and even his daughter in his talk of volunteering. She got a job at one of the non-profits he talked about. I asked him what his second thing would be.

He paused for a second and said it had to be Family. Now usually, I ask that family not be an option because it is the typical response. However, the way Ted just opened up and shared the joy and hope of his volunteering experience I "let it slide" (love you Ted!).

He has two boys and a girl and they are all adults now. He says he sees them almost weekly as they all live nearby. On Fridays he heads to happy hour at the G-Man  and sends a group text to his kids and then he and his wife either see them or don't. Most oftentimes, they do.

I loved that idea - having an open invitation to meet up and a social watering hole with your loved ones. As a matter of fact, I have a prior engagement with some friends for happy hour and it's just about that time.

Ted also encouraged anyone who "says" family is important to look at their actions. Can an outsider say, "Yes, family is important to that person" by watching their actions? That is the true test. Hearing him share that little nugget had me understand immediately why my intuition said not to ask for a new second thing. Ted had a great bit of distinction to share around family. Too often, we regurgitate "family" as being the most important thing then run off and spend time elsewhere.

I know what you may be thinking...I just said I'm meeting some friends out after talking about family. You'll just have to trust me that I love my family and do spend time with them.

Build a better you. Better than yesterday's you. Build it right now. Add a little bit or add a lot. Remove a little bit or remove a lot. Keep looking. Keep playing with the recipe. Keep tasting from the spoon.

I would love to hear from you. You can follow the Contact link at the bottom of the page or reach out to me on Instagram at @twoimportantthingsofficial.

Namaste and all that good stuff.