About a month ago, a little over, I volunteered at a great event. The cold, wet June weather soaked through our shoes, but it did not dampen the mood of the day’s activities.
As a new volunteer, at the event and with the organization, I was unfamiliar with the procedures. Thankfully, the team organizing the event was helpful and flexible, willing to let volunteer roles slide around in order to fill all of the event’s needs.
Tents provided shelter from the rain. Walkers milled about the main tent, interacting with sponsors. Everyone seemed unaffected by the weather.
The place buzzed with activity.
Free food. Music. Giveaways. Drawings. Massages. Games.
Minutes before the walkers walked there was a short program. Prizes were given to teams who raised the most support. Recognition was paid to the sponsors who donated the goodies. The St. Paul Police Chief talked. About the problems the city and state face. About the lives lost. About the survivors.
And tears, like the rain, fell to the already wet ground.
The walk started shortly after the program. Eager walkers strode along the well-marked walking paths. The volunteers waited till the last group hit the trail.
In the rain, rain jacket protecting me, I walked along side another volunteer. We played caboose and ensured that no walkers were derailed. We talked. She was older, a mom in her mid-forties. We shared stories. We picked up trash.
And it was wonderful. A great way to spend a Saturday morning.
As the walk was winding down, my co-volunteer heard the main tent call for our ETA via the walkie talkie. She responded that we were with some slow walkers, people who had good reason to be slow, people who reminded us why we were walking in the first place. And then another voice came on the walkie talkie. A volunteer inquiring about what to do with the extra t-shirts. My ears perked up. I waited for the response. And then I heard that they could not be handed out (for reasons I wish to keep quiet). Bottom line, even volunteers could not get a t-shirt.
I was bummed. Kind of annoyed. But tried to be understanding of the situation. The lady I was walking with knew I wanted a t-shirt. Thus, when I was waiting for the response on the walkie talkie, she gave me a “here ya, go. it’s the t-shirts you’ve been talking about the entire morning” look. When the final word came that t-shirts were not available for volunteers, this lady sympathized. She said, “I’m not really a t-shirt person, so it doesn’t matter to me, but I know you really wanted one.” And I did. I wanted one.
But more than that, I couldn’t understand how someone is “not a t-shirt person.” Those people exist? I have a drawer full of “free t-shirts” (the majority are free). Screen printed gems with logos and phrases of sites visited, of activities participated in, of memories stamped for the world to read as I walk past.
I’m not bashing the organization for not handing out a t-shirt. I’m not bashing the woman I enjoyed volunteering with for not liking t-shirts. I’m just really enthusiastic on the topic of free cotton t-shirts. And that’s a good thing, because I’m creating a mental list of items to pack for a week-long event. An event in which I will receive a much-anticipated free t-shirt. An event in which I will wear many of my much-appreciated free t-shirts from numerous other events.
Yes, please! I’d love a free t-shirt.
Yes, please! I’d love to volunteer.
Free t-shirt or not.