As you can imagine, I’ve been watching the Occupy Wall Street protests in downtown New York, and it got me to thinking about activism as a form of volunteerism. Perhaps they are one in the same–two beasts from the same bushel. Donating your time to benefit the common good. Sounds about right.
Unfortunately, when you really get down to it, a lot of volunteer jobs should be well-paid and insured government jobs or something similar. If we had a tax structure that supported the community good instead of corporate interest, we’d all be looking a whole lot better. Lots of our hard work and dedication would be rewarded with, what it should be, money. Or perhaps even better: our schools & healthcare would be paid for, and would be able to free up our own resources to become donors & volunteers.
I’d have to say, that occupying downtown New York for 12 days now is quite a long-term volunteer experience.
And as follows, my volunteer project for the next couple months will be: Occupy Portland - beginning October 6th. I’ll be there. I’ll have to see who I can gather. I think this is a group volunteer activity.
“activism is my rent for living on this planet” – Alice Walker
We’re all busy. There’s nothing new there. If isn’t the job and the kids, its the strippers and the drug habit. Doesn’t matter. When it boils down to it, the amount of time that one has needs to be a huge consideration when it comes to choosing a volunteer project.
If you’re flighty flaky no-good hipster (as I may or may not be) its not the best idea to sign up to mentor kids or work in an office. This is how volunteers can actually end up being more harmful than helpful. If an organization has taken the time to train you or a child/senior has allowed themselves to trust you then you are morally obligated to continue your service at least 6 months. Yes. 6 months. If you’re really nice..a year.
This may come as a shock, but think about it. What do you do when you really hate your job? Think back to a time that you worked at (insert shitty dead end customer service/office slave type job here) where your boss slapped your ass and called ya “toots” or made you clean out the most disgusting part of the entire building with a toothbrush or some shitty thing like that. What do you do? You know damn well what you do. You QUIT!
“Take that! you no good bourgy piece of shit. I hope you and your disgusting Subway franchise kingdom falls off the nearest cliff, and I want to be there to see your sorry existence go up in a fit of flames and footlongs!!” And that’s when you gather up the biggest loogie in the back of your throat and hock it on the nearest difficult thing to clean and growl, “I QUIT!”
Deep breath. Now, didn’t that feel nice?
But the fact of the matter is, you don’t want to do this to an organization that is doing good things for the world. When applying for a volunteer job that requires a certain time commitment –make sure you can live up to that commitment.
I plan on being in Portland for about 6 more months. Give or take. I’ve got one night per week. Just enough time to get involved in a volunteer activity that requires a bit of training. I’ve e-mailed a few Volunteer Coordinators with my interest. I’ll let you know how it goes.
Last entry, I passively mentioned a “project of this magnitude.” It seems like now is as good a time as any to explain exactly what I mean by that.
In the upcoming months, I plan to change nearly aspect of my life. I am going to quit my job, sell the rest of my earthly possessions, leave my house and volunteer my free time to worthy causes here and around the world.
view from my desk
I plan on writing about my experiences and putting it on a bomb web-site that makes volunteer opportunities and good causes accessible to anyone with the internet. I’d like to focus on the process of getting involved as a volunteer, and the best ways to help out those who need it.
It can be a daunting experience to choose a volunteer opportunity that fits your time frame, mind set and skills. Many times, it can be a challenge for an already stretched thin organization to properly use the expertise of each person that walks through their door. Finding an international opportunity only compounds these issues.
And when it really comes down to it, you want to be helpful to an organization, not harmful.
Anyway, I plan to give it a try. I’ve saved up some money, gained a few skills, made some connections and now? Now, I’m ready to throw it all to the wind. I hope to help some valuable organizations and inspire others to get involved in whatever capacity possible.
Update: I met with the fellas over at SpeerCreative. They are charged with the daunting task of turning my crass blog into a respectable web-site capable of supporting a project of this magnitude. While parsing out with them what I need to make this idea a reality, I realized that need to cultivate a tone that is more amicable to the non-profit do-gooder community.
Needless to say, my rant on 9/11 doesn’t exactly cultivate the culture of oneness that I need here. I’m trying to demonstrate that service and volunteerism are valuable characteristics of a healthy functioning society. Lines need not be drawn in the sand.
So please, bear with me as I try again: _________
In early 2009, the decided to rename September 11th as a National Day of Service and Remembrance. Communitiy organization were challenged to create service opportunites to engage people in service on or near September 11th.
I was the contact for volunteers at the two largest food banks in Oregon. They told us that, “service activities should honor those who died and those who have served because of the tragedies of 9/11, and include a time of reflection and remembrance.”
Huh? It would be fitting to put one of those scratching stopping record noises here.
You mean to tell me that in the honor of those who died at the hands of this horrible act of violence we are going to honor those that continue to commit horrible acts of violence? rrright….
Yes, yes, granted a Service Day is better than Patriot Day, but of course we needed to do both.
Instead, I’d like to argue that on this particular day, we should be focusing on global unity and understanding. Perhaps there is an opportunity here. Perhaps we can aim to be bigger than our enemies. We can choose to foster an environment that “combats terrorism” through education and humility. It might be a refreshing change of pace.
Therefore I’d like to call (as if I have any power) for yet another rebranding of 9/11.
September 11th: International Day of Service, Peace & Understanding
IDSPU? hmm. OK. open to other name ideas, but you get the idea.
On this day, community groups all over the world participate in service activities that support cross-cultural understanding and peace through education. Examples? perhaps one could organize a large service activity with their church and their local mosque. Maybe a letter writing campaign to end war or promote a social justice program? or working with an organization like IRCO that supports immigrants and refugees.
OK, fine. Maybe I’m a dreamer…..but I’m not the only one.
“What have you bought into and how much will it cost to buy you out?” – Saul Williams
This past Sunday was the 10th anniversary of 9/11. You know that one time…with the planes, and the buildings and the terrorists, and stuff. Well, yeah. Nationally, we’ve been reflecting on how the events of that morning changed our lives both personally and collectively.
I, for one, remember being …well, skeptical. I couldn’t believe that people living in caves on the other side of the world ”hated our freedom” so much would take their own lives & others to prove it.
I still don’t really believe it.
Not that I’m in shock. Not that I don’t believe people could hate us. That seems pretty obvious. I don’t believe that we know what actually happened that morning. If the powers in our government did not have a direct hand in the event, they at least chose to turn a blind eye.
Sorry, just couldn’t help myself. Carrying on..
Anyone with any sort of political background knows that you only need one catastrophic attack to rally a population to nationalism and revenge.
And as expected, in the months after 9/11 American patriotism was hotter than ever. Flags were flying off the shelf like they were going out of style. We were scared, confused & on gaurd. Perhaps if we wrapped our bodies and our psyches in the good ol’ red white and blue, we would be able to protect ourselves from the judging eyes of the world.
Ripe for the pickin’. Indeed. Perfect climate to start a war. Send those well-meaning American boys & girls to someone else’s backyard to “fight for our freedom.” Right. Sure. In the decade since 9/11 we used the event as a rallying cry for war & separation, a political poker chip for idealogical ends–invoking the tragedy as a reason to hate and fear others. It’s too bad really.
Fast forward to early 2009, the new body politic chose to rebrand September 11th as a National Day of Service and Remembrance. Not a bad idea, right? Communitiy organization were challenged to create service opportunites to engage people on or near September 11th. I know. I was one of those “challenged organizations.”
They told us that, “service activities should honor those who died and those who have served because of the tragedies of 9/11, and include a time of reflection and remembrance.” Oh please. I don’t need to go into my issues with connecting 9/11 to our series of endless wars. That’s not the point.
The point is, I’m going to have to call their bluff on this whole “service day” thing too. While I definitely support a day of service in lieu of another goddamn Patriot Day, this one is just some pro-military yea-America circle jerk. Uh, did I just say that outloud? uh-oh. Yup.
Anyway, I’d like to argue that on this particular day, we should be focusing on global unity and understanding. Therefore I’d like to call (as if I have any power) for yet another rebranding of 9/11.
September 11th: International Day of Service, Peace & Understanding IDSPU? hmm. OK. open to other name ideas, but you get the idea.
There are way better ways to do this whole get-rid-of-half-your-possessions thing. That is, if you have a bit more forethought, and not a surprise $1000 rent increase and a roommate deciding to go on a last minute cross country rendez-vous.
In my defense, the free box method is a time honored Portland tradition, and probably the reason that I have most of this shit in the first place. However, there comes a point when your free box just becomes some sort of grotesque illegal dumping situation. We were definitely toeing that line for a while there.
And yes, the whole freegan love thing is pretty cool, but donating it somewhere may actually be a better way to go. Goodwill’s an OK option, but should probably only be used as a last resort. I can’t lie though, that is definitely what we did after we let our neighborhood have their pick of it.
What I probably should have done was give it to an organization that could have put more use to it than those craigslist trolls.
Well, shit. In my regret, I’ve decided to mention some of those organizations in my area that do great work with all that non-trash trash out there. I’ll use them for the next half of this inventory reduction. Holla.
The Arc of Multnomah/Washington County - These guys run a resale store to fund their programs. Clients from their programs come and volunteer with me at my work.The have a long list of things that they don’t accept, but definitely worth it to sort out the things they could use.
Volunteers of America - They do a similar thing. Volunteering at the Food Bank every once and a while too. Great things both these programs are doing
SCRAP - an amazing arts and crafts reuse center! They are definitely getting my fabric collection.
The Community Warehouse - They take bigger things like furniture. But remember to keep it classy. Charities don’t want your junk neither.
William Temple House - They run something similar to a Goodwill, and have a social services and emergency assistance piece, but they are a faith-based organization…and I tend to avoid that.
Oregon Food Bank - Lest we forget, cleaning up the kitchen. Oregon Food Bank accepts unopened non-perishable & perishable food items for our neighbors in need.
Anyway, yeah, after its all said and done, and my lackluster Goodwill donation was complete; I am still left with a bit of trash. OK. A lot of trash. There is a random bed, that I don’t know where it came from, and a futon cushion from a futon that I definitely never owned. I snuck it over to my new house in the middle of the night and stuck it behind a truck in the front lawn. Definitely the opposite of classy.
Goddammit, what do I do with that thing?!
I think I’m going to burn it. Yeah, I’ll let you know how that goes.
Everything is finally in its place. It feels like it has taken months to get to this point. All the sorting, and agonizing, and scrubbing, and worrying. This move has definitely been trying..
What made the cut
To be frank, I have the hardest time throwing things away. My slight obsession with trash really compounded the stress of moving. I imagine it living out the years of its life on a garbage pile in Southeast Asia. Depressing. I know, but really it forces me to think about the million ways I can make everything I own not trash.
More than half of it had to go. “Sure. A dollar. Yeah, take some clothes too. The guys stuff is over there.”I started with the garage sale. Honestly, it wasn’t worth shit when it came down to the dollars and cents of it all. I think we made maybe $60 total. The best part of it was deciding the difference between the things that I could keep and the ones that I couldn’t. You see, I lived in a huge 3+ bedroom house, and furnished and filled the whole damn thing. I had couches, kitchen stuff, washer & dryer, clothes of all sorts, bike things, tables, chairs. The whole nine. I was moving to a 12′x12′ room in a house that already had enough stuff to fill its walls, its garage and then some.
lettin' it all hang out
I sold my kitchen table, two books by Obama & a Cookbook to an 80-year old couple in a minivan for ten bucks.
People were pretty stoked around seven o’clock when we introduced the “mostly free yard.” “Yeah, you got a truck? Sure, take the two tables. Yeah, those lamps too.”
I was really appreciating the cleanse.
The next day I had the free garage. I put up an ad on craigslist and had a handful of people come over and take a look. At one point, we just had a father and his son load up a truck to furnish his dorm room. Seriously. We gave him a desk, a full kitchen set, chairs, a whiteboard
A lot of crap that I didn’t plan on keeping somehow managed its way into my new abode. A 27″ inch television from 2005? A cooler? A can of hairspray? a whole bag of spices? really? really? Where did this stuff come from?! Less. Less. I want less stuff.
All craziness aside, I’d call it a 60% reduction in inventory. Not bad, but there’s still a lot of work to do.