Adventures in Service

Warning, really long post
Saturday, I and my four fellow senior seminar group members stepped out of the bright, safe, rural, upper-middle-class bubble that is Taylor University and stepped into another world. We were there to help, to save the day, or so we thought. Actually, we didn't know what to think or expect. We were going to Virtual Scavengers in Indy, and all I knew going into it was "they put together working pieces of donated computers for nonprofits." That was it. I had this fear that I was going to be there for 5 hours testing memory or case fans or something. I don't like working with hardware. Which was demonstrated yesterday. But that's another story.

I digressed. I walked into this warehouse and was greeted with piles and piles of computers and monitors. There was a section of the warehouse segmented by plywood walls that was the "store." It seemed to sell, at highly discounted rates, software, computer books, and maybe computers. I didn't go in and look.
Once everyone got there, we were given our jobs. It was pretty easy to separate us- the ladies (Cindy & I) went to the 'programming' area, while the guys were snagged to, as they reported later, move monitors from one pile into another, more organized pile. They got a detailed lesson in the art of properly stacking monitors.

The 'programming' area, as it was called, wasn't programming at all. It was wiping hard drives, imaging the computers, and installing Windows. A lot of click-click-click-wait. Because I was proficient in using computers to start, I needed a lot less oversight than a normal volunteer does, and I got two computers (essentially) completely done during my time, while no one else got through even one.

Even though I had two computers going simultaneously, I was able to talk to the other people in the area during the 'waiting' bits, which was most of it. Here's the stories of the people I met:
  • Bryce - This high school student from Indianapolis was finishing up his spring break when we were there. Apparently, he had spent his entire spring break working at the warehouse. I respected that. He was very polite and knowledgeable, especially for just a freshman in high school. I was very impressed. I told him this was great experience so early- because he had been working there, he had learned a slew of thing s I never knew about hardware, networking, software, etc. Very cool.

  • Leonard - He's the staff member in charge of the area. He is good at what he does. It's different, working for a ministry or nonprofit than for a business or university. At a for-profit you have equipment, trained staff, and a budget. Here, Leonard trains his "staff" on a week by week basis, he has whatever equipment that comes in, and I didn't see much evidence of a budget. Even with those hardships, he got work done in a very matter-of-fact way, making sure things are done right. I appreciated it.

  • The obnoxious kid - OK, so he wasn't so much a kid- he's 24, older than me - but I needed a name. I didn't catch his name, but that's OK, because I probably won't be seeing him again. And that's OK too. When he first started talking to me, I could tell he had an attitude, but I was pleasant, hoping the attitude would wear off. He said he was going into the National Guard and was working toward his GED. I told him that those were good things to do. Later he expanded on his plans and said he wanted to go "shoot everyone over there" because he thought that would solve the problem, or be an EMT and drive an ambulance, because he liked to drive fast. He said his license was currently suspended for driving 100 in a 55 and not paying the ticket. I told him all those things were not good things to do. When I really lost respect for him, however, was when he got a phone call, and answered it Push-To-Talk. From what I overheard, it sounded very much like a drug deal. Who makes a drug deal on PTT with other people around? Duh. Bryce, who must've not overheard what I did, said, "How do you understand the guy on the other end of the phone?" Admittedly, the guy on the other end was garbled like a walkie talkie would be. The kid shot back with some smart remark, then added, "It was a business deal." Hmm. Yeah, so, the kid wasn't doing any work- I think he was there while his dad was getting a computer- and he kept talking and being disrespectful and eventually got thrown out. Leonard said he thought he was trying to impress me. Um, no, didn't work.

  • The ladies working with me - One of the ladies was at the warehouse to gain computer job skills. She had gone to school once-upon-a-time-before-computers for graphic design, and now was trying to get back into it. She was taking some computer graphic design classes at Ivy Tech as well as helping out with computers there. Another lady was working 4 consecutive Saturdays to earn a computer for her son. She wouldn't be able to afford one otherwise. She was a big Reggie Miller and Pacer fan, and we talked about that. All the ladies were eager to work and learn, although none of them were proficient or even comfortable using a computer. I tried to explain what they were doing as we went along, rather than just saying, Click here, Click here, Now wait till it's done. I think they appreciated it.

At the end of the day, Leonard asked Bryce, who was supposed to be in charge of helping the volunteers, how the day went. He said "I didn't do anything- she did all of it." I suppose I did. I wasn't going to sit and watch progress bars when I was supposed to be serving. Besides, I enjoyed it. They asked me if I would be coming back. I said, probably not, but I'd talk to my group. They said they wished I would.
Last Story: As the Taylor group was waiting to leave, we were talking to a lady in charge, and she was explaining the purpose and vision of the organization. Cool stuff. I piped in, "Yeah, there's lots to do here, you just need to get the manpower to ..." when I was abruptly cut off by teh lady with a pointed finger and a sharp "Not manpower, PERSONpower." I mumbled, "Right... personpower."
This exchange got me thinking of how little we are exposed to feminism ideas at Taylor- her comment caught not only me but the entire group off-guard. That's for another post, however.

Lessons 'o the day
-I like meeting people, especially when I can talk with them one-on-one. I love hearing people's interests, their stories, their passions. An author that captures exactly what I'm talking about is Studs Terkel.

-I like serving using my gifts and passions - I can do technology. I can do communicating. I care about social and economic justice. Sitting and waiting for Windows to install, or a disk to erase, is pretty menial. I can see the bigger picture behind it and give meaning to the menial.

-I enjoyed helping the ladies learn how to use the computer - I've never considered corporate training at all, but I think I would really enjoy it. I think I have to actually get experience in business first, before I can jump into teaching people how to do things in business.

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