Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Burn Out

I think I'm experiencing burn out. You know. That feeling you get when you don't care if you ever see something again. That sense of self disgust when you actually start to begrudge just one more little piece of clothing for someone who has so much less than you do. That sense of self righteousness when someone donates something dirty that you have to launder and you feel it's a sign of disrespect. That sense that you just want to slap someone silly who cannot ever arrive for their volunteer shift on time. That lack of tolerance for a process over which you have no control. Yeah, all of those.

Suzie and I have been working at the Clothes Closet for almost a year. Every single Tuesday and Thursday. We were there in the beginning when it was just a room filled with boxes and bags of donated clothing, a room decorated to care for children during Mother's Day Out and filled with paints, crayons, poster board, chalk boards and tiny tables and chairs to accommodate small, wiggly bodies.

Today, it is a manifestation of our vision, Suzie's and mine. The walls are lined with double closet poles filled with clean clothing, hung and marked by gender and size, ready to be offered free of charge to those who need our assistance.

Maintaining and operating the Clothes Closet is physical work. We sort, launder, fold and hang almost all of the donated clothing. We leave the Clothes Closet each Tuesday and Thursday pretty tired and physically spent.

I should also mention.....we're old. Suzie is 73 years old. I am 66 years old. The spring in our step is more like stepping on a wet sponge. Not a lot of lift.

Although we have another volunteer who comes to help, she does so more sporadically than regularly and when she is there she likes to socialize with the other volunteers who come to assist in the Food Pantry. Suzie and I do the bulk of the work because this is our baby. We were and are committed to its growth.

We've closed the Clothes Closet this week in order to remove the spring and summer clothing and replace them with fall and winter items. It's hard, heavy work.

The real problem is we've run out of space. We don't have anywhere to store our spring/summer clothes. Our room is over-flowing. We have a small storage area upstairs where Tom installed clothes poles that we've used to store the winter items that have been donated, but neither one of us needs to add running up and down stairs with armloads of clothing  to our daily chores. Besides, we apparently are not going to be able to use that area much longer because they want it for storage for children's programs.

One of the Sunday school teachers offered us a corner in a small unused classroom just down the hall and we have a few bags stored there as well. And yesterday she offered the entire classroom as a storage room. We were ecstatic. But it was short lived. Last night we were informed by telephone that we could not use the shelves, no clothing poles.... just bags in the corner.

I understand. Classrooms for children are a church priority and they don't want the children to walk up and down stairs. But I also hate church politics; the jockeying to see who has more power and influence and who will get their way, which is what is happening behind the scenes. I'd never make a good politician because I hate that shit and I'm too blunt about it.

Currently, what they (meaning the pastor, one trustee and the Sunday school teacher) want us to do is take down all the spring/summer stuff, remove the hangers and stuff it all into bags for storage elsewhere while we wait for the trustees to meet, discuss and vote on where our storage area will be, if any. Then come next spring/summer, remove all the items from the bags, hang on hangers and return to the clothing poles. Absent any additional storage, we would have to remove all the spring/summer stuff, remove the hangers and stuff it all into bags and transport it to donate it to Salvation Army or Goodwill. Those scenarios seem daunting and overwhelming. The work is physical enough without adding more tasks to our responsibilities. We were really hoping that we could just move the stuff from one clothes pole in the Clothes Closet to another clothes pole in a storage area.

Today, for the first time, we considered contacting other churches or organizations for a larger space with additional storage more suitable for what this project has become ~ and hopefully more volunteer participation.

It could be that we are just frustrated. Overwhelmed. Disheartened. Exhausted. Burned out.

1 comment:

altadenahiker said...

Odd this should come up now, because I was just talking to a friend about some wildlife preservation groups that are now engaged in power plays. It's a jolt to find alpha dog activity when everyone is volunteering their time and effort.