Darlings, there are times when I just want to strangle a few people in our community. But happily, today isn’t one of those days. Today I would like to salute a few gay volunteers who have worked quietly for over ten years, who you probably never even knew existed. I am talking about the posse of gay men who simply show up to move people with HIV/AIDS and other illnesses or disabilities into accessible and affordable housing. It sounds like such a simple thing (and it really is), but for a person barely making it on Medicaid spend-down having a volunteer moving crew saves them a lot of money, time and – more importantly when their health is compromised – it saves an awful lot of stress.
Last week I joined a group of volunteers (from First Baptist Church, Reconciliation and the United Church of Christ) and helped them move a person with disabilities into a new apartment. And cherubs, it’s amazing to see what can be accomplished in a few hours with some willing souls, a few trucks and a furniture dolly. Let me tell you, these guys had the furniture disassembled, boxes stacked and loaded and the washer and dryer up the stairs and out the door in a flash. But what is really striking about this simple act of kindness is the fact that there is no big bureaucratic organization running it. There are no masters of social work or licensed clinical social workers billing their hours, or on-the-clock non-profit-profiteers making a big deal about it. It’s just ordinary members of our community who finish a full day at work and then put their personal life on hold for a few hours to help out. Petals, I have to say, I am genuinely proud of these folks.
As many of you who read this column will attest, I have occasionally been a tad critical of the LDS faith. “Really, Ruby?” you say. “You’re such a glass is half full, optimistic and guileless Pollyanna, I never would have known!” Well its true, my trembling little Chihuahuas, I have sometimes been harsh on the local Saints. But here is where I give the evil empire their props. Many of the volunteers who show up for service projects are former or current LDS folks who are used to getting a call from the bishop to come help out someone in need. Their response is automatic and unconditional, and unlike a disturbing number of healthcare “professionals” and non-profit agencies that shall remain nameless (you know who you are), these guys are discreet, empathetic and can be trusted with a patients confidentiality. It’s truly impressive, kittens.
Some day soon, we as a community need to have a frank discussion about volunteerism and community building. Anecdotally it seems that many of our gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender organizations and many of our health related agencies are just happy for people to write a check and then get the hell out of the way. Their focus is primarily on fundraising, and that’s it. They hide behind their agencies’ liability insurance provisions, allude vaguely to confidentiality agreements, and insist that only credentialed professionals can provide services. It’s a cop-out. They completely miss the opportunity for volunteering individuals to experience personal growth; to benefit from working collaboratively in small groups and teams; to participate in building a caring community, and to feel the sense of fulfillment that comes along with MEANINGFUL volunteering. And no, I’m not talking about stuffing envelopes for yet another donation beg letter, or busing tables at the latest gala fundraiser.
Darlings, there are all sorts of unmet needs in our community and sooner or later, the full time fags and the nine to five dykes will realize they can’t do it all, or control it all from their cushy ergonomic chairs. Logistically they will have to work with volunteers and folks from the grass roots to address them. So I say viva la volunteer revolution! And could we puhlease start with a help line?
For an evening of politically incorrect entertainment, questionable glamour and raucous opinion, join Ruby Ridge as she hosts 3rd Friday Bingo (on the 3rd Friday of each month at 7:00 p.m.) at the First Baptist Church in Salt Lake City (777 South 1300 East). Oh, and wear sensible shoes! (Don’t even ask why.)