After I retired from work due to ill health, I lay about the house for a long time. I wasn’t fit to do much else. Eventually I was ready to play with the outside world. I volunteered at the regional Cancer Centre. I was a ‘meet and greet’ person one morning a week. I directed people to radiotherapy, x-ray, the lifts, the stairs, the clinics. I phoned porters and buses. Essentially,I was a signpost. The challenge was to spot the people who were going to need help and get to them before they had to gather up the courage to ask. I enjoyed being out in the world, being useful. Eventually though the personal demands of being relied on to be there, dressed and ready for anything the world could throw at me became too much.
Some months later I was chatting to the then PSP support worker about Herself’s condition, whatever the latest issues were. I happened to wonder aloud if she needed a volunteer, and so began a new phase in my world. Work at home in pjs! That’s my kind of volunteering. Maybe a wee meeting every now and then- a sidekick.
Time moved on. Shockingly, S’s post became redundant. S got another job (of course she did, she’s a wonderful asset to any charity, and a good friend to boot), but the PSP patients and families are still here. The volunteering didn’t stop. The focus changed slightly, to incorporate the NI Rare Disease Partnership as well.
I became a company director. I did an interview for the main regional paper. I spoke at our launch event. I met politicians and civil servants. Volunteering has been very good for me.
And now? Probably the most “Eek!” moment of all. My name came out of the hat to be the person representing the charity at a formal dinner. A moment to network, shine and enjoy. I am not freaking out. Not much. Well, actually I am.
I don’t do formal events. There’ll be posing in the fancy new venue. Polite, but influential conversation with bigwigs. Yes, all of that is a concern, but not the biggest concern. Clothes, people, clothes. I don’t possess a long frock (the summer maxi I bought hopefully 2 years ago won’t do). I’ve had no need of a ball gown, or a wrap or strappy shoes.
There will be updates. This is a big deal for me. I recognise that I’m fortunate to be anxious about superficialities.I will be accepting any kind donations of confidence.