Volunteering and the Olympic Spirit
I overheard such an interesting conversation in my local charity shop the other day. A young man had arrived to offer himself for work. He was so nervous, it was almost painful to observe. I didn't look in his direction so that he couldn't tell I was listening as it felt so hard that he had to have this conversation so publicly in the middle of the shop!
But the manageress was kind. Firm but kind. He was obviously a shy chap – I could tell from his voice as he stuttered and stumbled that he was finding the experience excruciatingly painful. I'd say he was probably 15 and this could well have been his very first attempt at doing anything outside school.
The manageress helped him through his anxiety and gently probed to find out what he wanted. It was pretty clear he'd have accepted anything, seemingly prepared to offer himself for both mornings and afternoons every day of the week! But she pinned him down to come in the following afternoon and he left happy.
I remarked then to her on how hard that must have been for him, simply to walk into the shop and ask if they needed help. But how wonderful it was to see young people today quite prepared – if not keen – to take up volunteering rather than paid work. I realise paid work opportunities are few and far between at the moment but I don't believe this takes away from this young man's willingness to work hard for no payment.
Anyway, the manageress then went on to tell me about two girls from the local school who work for her regularly on Saturdays. She says they needed hardly any training before being let loose on pricing, steaming, labelling and now they're a real asset.
And she's thrilled to have found a young man who can help with all the lifting and carrying that some of her older, female helpers can't manage – even if it is only for the summer holidays.
And all this seems to resonate at the moment alongside the Olympic experience as we see so many of our bright young things striving so hard against such terrific odds to do the best they can for themselves and their countries. And as we watch the many thousands of volunteers criss-crossing London on a daily basis simply to help out – for love of sport, or their country or the whole Olympic spirit.
I mentioned to the manageress what a shame it is that our young people are often under-valued and how great it was to see someone overcoming his shyness to get his first foot on the rungs of life. Sadly, I know far too many older people who've never volunteered for anything in their lives.