Trends: Volunteers Gone Wild

Infighting! Back-stabbing! Meltdowns! In Philly these days, lending a helping hand isn’t what it used to be

But even as these thoughts ran through my head, rain pouring down, my freezing feet stuffed into two pairs of socks, leggings and boots, I realized: I might be losing it. This wasn’t Memorial Day at Waterloo Gardens, and the parents zooming past in SUVs were heading off to work, not thinking about oven-stuffer roasters full of fresh herbs (which, by the way, we were selling at $3.50 a pot, a complete bargain). That’s the bottom line with volunteering, it seems: We get in too deep, and we lose perspective. The plants all around me seemed like the most important thing in the world at that moment, whereas to the rest of Greater Philadelphia, they were … a bunch of plants.

I pulled myself together and realized that except for my numb and bloodless feet, I was actually having a positive volunteering experience. My co-chair was extremely nice and hardworking. There were lots of other generous women helping us schlep and peddle the plants. If the sensation ever came back in my toes, I’d count myself really lucky with the plant sale. And so I did: There were no tears or fights, it stopped raining at the end of the week, and all the geraniums sold. But it was pretty darn cold out there, and when I got home at night, while I waited for my feet to turn a normal color again, I wondered: Who can juggle all this stuff? Do I lack the iron will that’s needed to put in 18-hour days on volunteer events?

I think it’s pretty clear I do. But still, at the end of the day, I enjoyed working on the plant sale — even if I did find myself later that night under a blanket on the couch, watching the Sex and the City movie.