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digging for goldCoretta is a striking 85-year-old artist. As she enters a room, images of her as a young, startlingly beautiful woman trail her like ethereal mists. Her blue eyes take one in from a perfect face and I feel like a mouse scrutinized by an eagle. Her husband Glenn, is a commercial artist and they have shown me pictures of his artistic product designs for major companies, most of them from the 1960’s. They shared these pictures to show me they are legitimate. Luckily, they seemed to like me.
Coretta offered to design a journal for our use. The journals would be given to patients or family members who would like to record their thoughts. The journal would have poetic prompters to help them visualize things to say. Coretta has written short haiku poems to be incorporated into the sides of the pages, giving the journal a professional quality. She and I corroborated often about how to distribute the journal, types of patients and methods of discovering how the journals were utilized.
As we worked together, Coretta told me in her breathy voice that she had gone to another agency and was initially welcomed with enthusiasm. She was going to paint a flowering vine for their lobby that would be filled with pictures of the clients served. She mused that it would be not only a lovely welcoming addition, but also a therapeutic exercise for the participants. Trouble is, as with many short-staffed, overworked organizations, no one at that agency could take the time to help her get started.
Frankly, if I let myself say it, I’m also too busy for the fluffy projects. But, there was something about those blue eyes that compelled me to scratch out the time from somewhere. And besides, I have gotten a bit self-serving. I need breaks from all the minutiae that weigh me down. Coretta let me float for just a bit.
My plan was to ask some very crafty volunteers to put these journals together and to begin by distributing them to select patients. Over the years, I’ve found that asking for permission to do a project takes forever, so by experimenting and proving that a project works, it makes it easier to sell. Anyway, we finalized her designs, complete with a Coretta sketch of a rose adorning the cover.
She stopped in the other day to talk to me. As we were chatting, she said, “I have been thinking about this whole project. I’m certain that other organizations would like to have it for their clients too, so I think that I would eventually like to market it. That is, after we’ve seen how it is received here and after some modifications.”
Boom, the eagle swooped in and ate me as I was nibbling some cheese. “Oh, how interesting,” I managed. Now, at that point, my brain started shrieking at me, “What!!!! Are you kidding???” And as I let those initial thoughts burst and flutter like confetti in my mind, I looked back into those blues and said, “Coretta, that is your prerogative. This is your work, your ideas, your poetry and art. You own that.”
She nodded with an artist’s smile and I continued, “if you want to do that, then we absolutely can’t use it here and stamp our logo on it. It is yours and you are entitled to keep it and protect it. But I cannot in good faith continue with this project.”
She studied me for a bit and said, “yes, well, I appreciate your honesty.” I could feel her talons caressing me, the me that spent precious time helping her. “I appreciate all your hard work and have thoroughly enjoyed learning about your organization.”
I didn’t say anything to anyone, especially anyone (well, everyone if you must know) who has been making fun of me for wasting my time with this pompous (their words) lady. Honestly, they wanted nothing to do with her.
See, here’s where I sometimes get myself into big trouble and then sometimes I uncover a golden volunteer nugget. I have to do more than just get to know people who want to volunteer. I have this weird side that feels like I’m digging for the next great volunteer. I’ll bet you have a side like that too.
While I’m not sure what will happen, because Coretta may rethink and decide to give her works to us, but really, I doubt that will happen. Did I waste my time with her and did she just want to use me to develop a product to sell? Maybe, but I’m choosing to think not. I’m choosing to think that she had good intentions, at least at the start. And we all know that there are plenty of volunteers with good intentions that don’t continue for some reason. We can only move on.
So, the question becomes, do we continue to dig, oftentimes alone for those volunteer nuggets even though we occasionally come up empty-handed? Until the day volunteer nuggets rain from the sky, I guess we’ll have to.