I’d spent six months recovering from a broken ankle following a five-day stay in the hospital that was a result of being hit by a car. I’d had my final appointment with the orthopedic surgeon and they had handed me a bill that was close to a thousand dollars, with costs included for X-Ray development. I was shocked, because I had thought it was covered by the hospital insurance plan.

Apparently not.

Anyway, I didn’t know what else to do, so I went out to try and find a job. I knew it would need to be a job I could keep for a while, and I think either my Dad or my Mom suggested I try the library. So, I did. They had an opening in the Children’s Section for a page. To my great surprise, I got the job. I was officially a librarian! This was my longest running employment. I held this job for two years. For around nine months, I picked up my check from the library, deposited most of it into a savings account, then removed about a hundred dollars and to pay the orthopedic surgeon with. As my mother mentioned, I was determined. However, I also wanted to be honest. He had helped me and I wanted to pay him back. So, for nine months or so, every month, a hundred dollars went to that surgeon.

Previous to this, however, my hometown was hit by a freak snowstorm and the city wasn’t prepared for it. 2-4 feet of snow was dumped in the streets, which meant none of the busses were running. The city was practically shut down. However, several businesses continued to run. Among them were hospitals, naturally, and grocery stores. I had decided to do two things. First, to buy a bicycle with some money my grandfather gave me. $50 bought me an old, beat-up but still working, steel framed bicycle and untold freedom. Second, my brush with death suggested to me that I should share my life with others.

Strange to say, volunteer services had advertisements, too, and you could usually find them in one of the local hospitals (the same one that I took my babysitting course at when I was twelve, tell you about it later). Anyway, they had two options that appealed to me. One of them was a concern that worked with people who have AIDS and HIV. They were looking for office staff. They were called (are you ready for this?) Care Bearers. The person running the organization was a Manhattan native whose name I can’t remember. For the purposes of this blog, though, I’ll call her Barb.

For Care Bearers, I was a volunteer secretary. I answered telephones. I took messages. I did the filing. I even helped them set up a couple of computers when they were donated.

Let me tell you something. When you work for an organization like Care Bearers that helps people with HIV and AIDS, that mostly afflicts people attracted to the same gender as themselves, you certainly learn a thing or two. First of all, about a third of the people we helped were heterosexual. Second, since the remainder were homosexual, we were often invited to the gay pride parade, where the staff often passed out cards, condoms and information about HIV, AIDS, safe sex and testing, among other things. Since the Care Bearers staff were helping sufferers of that terrible disease, I never heard anyone accuse a staff member of being homophobic.

As for Barb, she was one of the awesomest people I have ever worked for. Barb was usually right out front with everything we did. She could get donations from just about any business in town. We were given food, clothing and, quite often, toiletries, for the people we helped. Barb was a smoker, but she never smoked in the office or around any of our clientele. Generally, if she was going to smoke, she smoked in her car.

In a kind of strange way, I think she looked at me as if I was one of her granddaughters. She was gentle in her suggestions to me that I should bathe more frequently, wash my hair, and use deodorant (which I didn’t like to use). She was sweet when it came to Christmas presents because, even though I was the one who wrapped the presents we gave to our active clientele, there was always something there for each of the volunteers. Then, when she learned that I had never seen Cats before and it just happened to be playing at a local theatre, she bought tickets for me and a guest. I think she was hoping I would find a date to bring along. I took my mother and brought along my dad’s field glasses (binoculars). We were way up in the nose-bleed seats, but with those binoculars, I could see everything that happened. It also helped that the theatre was one of those that was built with perfect acoustics. It’s thanks to her that I love Cats.

I was at Care Bearers for just as long as I worked at the library. In fact, it was in the Care Bearers office one December that I finally decided I was done looking for love.

Question Time: If you could be a Care Bear or Care Bear Cousin, which one would you be? Ever done work for a volunteer organization? Did you learn anything new from them that you would never have learned anywhere else? Tell me your story. I’m listening!

Large thanks to Google for providing the fun Care Bears memes.