Le sigh. There is a cold that is so cold that all you can do is scream. I was sprinting home from the train station when I passed the mailman who had a package in his bag...I got all excited thinking it was the General, except that it wasn't. Dang. Now I am in my house, drinking tea and eating Maria cookies, which are almost exactly like biscuits I used to eat in London. Yay!
I've decided to start volunteering at a center for learning, so this morning I got on the train and headed south. When I was looking through a book of maps last week, there was a page of pictures of houses in Chicago around the turn of the century--cramped slum houses compared to the neat urban houses of the suburbs. The houses that flashed by could have been from the first set of pictures. Obviously, they were much better taken care of now, and were interspersed with condos, wee gardens and paved streets, but every now and then you'd get a defiant four story brick building that just looked...old. The L runs a lot higher off the ground as well, so you definitely get more of a sense of sailing along, disconnected from the below. The Center is tucked away next to a park and a hospital. It was started in 1976 after the government shut down the local after-school program and parents picked it up. Now they have three buildings and two hundred full time employees. The building where I'll be working was originally some kind offices that they added onto, deliberately creating kid-friendly classrooms and play areas. I stopped in to meet the three-year olds I'll be playing with. They were shy, but not nearly as shy as I was. In the future I hope to help out with the after-school home work assistance and mentoring programs, but right now since I'm working at night, I can only go in the mornings.
The volunteer coordinator had set up a special event for today: cutting out felt stockings that the kids would decorate and hang up around the school. She was hoping for a dozen or so people, but in the end it was just me. I didn't mind. It was great to talk to her--in a way we were a lot a like. Like me, she did her undergrad close to home (Chicago) and then went away to do her master's (New York). also like me, she worked in a big company before deciding that she really wanted to do something worthwhile with her life. It was refreshing to talk to her about our interests and different topics like immigration or families. I still feel very knocked about, though I don't know why exactly, and so to have someone say my resume is very good and understand how I need to be doing something that's not soulless is like--well, I want to say like balm on a wound, but that seems kind of dramatic. and yet...it's nice to be needed and appreciated.
I still need to find a new job, but I think I'm going to start looking in the non-profit sector. If cutting out felt stockings for a couple hours can make me feel worthwhile, imagine what doing this all the time might do.