Sunday, December 22, 2013

Volunteering Awkwardly


the place where the story took place, with the name edited out in case for confidentiality sake


I went to a volunteer programme today. I don't know what the hell I was thinking, or what forces on earth have pushed me to be there (because it all seemed so out of place and so unbelievable), but there I was, sitting on the chair, looking at around 10 plus boys playing musical chairs. It reminded me of the icebreakers that I played so long ago back in my youth - about five to six years ago - and I missed the feeling of belonging. The feeling of looking forward to a familiar place to go back to and have fun every week.

One of the boys struck up conversation with me. He was so young, only 18. He had no idea that I was a new volunteer there, perhaps he thought that I was one of them. When I told him I was 23, he was genuinely surprised. He asked me I was from, and I told him that I was working, and I graduated from NUS. His second surprise for the day, as he said he was from ITE. He then proceeded to share about his feelings of entering the army, how nervous he was, and how he had a medical later. I nodded, and pretended to understand. I didn't have the heart nor courage to tell him that I was a Malaysian. But I guess age and my story about me graduating would have let of a hint.

Why was I there again?

You wanted to make a change, don't you remember? My brain instinctively went. 

Me and my stupid ideals, I thought to myself. As I was sitting there, in the circle alone, change was definitely not something that I was making. The youth leader asked me to mingle, and that was the last thing that I wanted to do. Give me some chairs to stack, some books to arrange, mics to set up, and I will gladly do those for you. Asking me to talk to someone, ask about them and pretend to be interested in the conversation? That is the last thing that I am good at.

But still I was interested. In their stories, in how they ended up here. I practically received no information about what I was going to be doing, all I know was that I was going to volunteer in an outreach programme for at-risk teens, so naturally I was lost. The fact that I was told that I would be leading a bible study session only made it worse. I found myself wondering again on whether me being there was a good move. I thought about all the Christian people I knew, and wondered why instead of them, who are supposed to be more spiritual and more religious than me were not there. They talked about God day and night, about how God changed their lives but instead of them, you have me, a guy who rarely goes to church, sitting on the chair, supposedly being the volunteer to help instill these youths with Christian values. Heck, I don't even know whether God still exists.

So what am I doing there?

But as I sat there watching the boys laugh and smile, with the occasional playfulness that reminded me of myself when I was young, I thought that perhaps I should stay. I thought about whether it is possible to bring what I had learn in psychology, in NUS and in my old youth to this kind of setting. I thought about how these boys may have far less than me, and yet I was sitting there whining like a small boy about feeling out of place. Wanting to make a change has been the defining feature of my life, from the work I do to the course that I took, so why am I doubting myself now?

I left the premise early, while the boys were having pizza, as I have no idea how to talk to them. In fact, I was afraid to say the wrong things to them (such is the plight of a socially awkward penguin). But as I walked out of the building, I sent a message to the leader in charge of the entire programme.

Keep me in the loop for what's happening in January.

I want to see if this is my path.


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