My last voluntary job was as a troubleshooter when a local retail street had a mini overhaul. The length of the street was dug up and repaved with motorway grade pave (very strong stuff) and the old lighting was taken out and brand new lights were put in. I agreed to act as the troubleshooter between the traders, local council and contractors. Traders panic a lot and it was a long month but it was a very loud swan song and when the street was re-opened officially then I was a happy person – I’d done something really well. It’s difficult being a woman in what is still (in those circles at least) largely a man’s world and to be treated as an equal along with senior management is great. After nearly 40 years of voluntary work I was glad to stop.
Of course you never really stop. I still have contacts from those days and for some of them I’m still the person they ring when they want to know the truth about a situation. One person rang me today and said she always says that I’m still her “go to” person. It’s nice to be thought of in that way, we all need to feel special.
One of the things I enjoyed most was visual auditing which is simply writing down all that is wrong with a particular, smallish, area and getting things put right. I was damned good at it and the boys in the Crime Reduction Unit of the police force I did it for acknowledged that I was the best. It’s good beating the boys at their own game.
Then personnel issues arose with two senior police officers and I was told that, even though I’d gone through formal vetting & interview procedures, I wasn’t wanted as a volunteer. More recently I’ve been trying to doing some of the same voluntary work and the senior officer has been less than welcoming.
It’s a big disappointment when someone you liked and respected as a sergeant suddenly becomes a less than decent inspector and it’s as if they’ve left their respect for everybody (including themselves) behind. The outcome is that there’s been a little bit of discriminatory language bandied around and he’s shocked that I can think that of him, after all he’s had mental health problems in the past. We all know that there’s no discrimination by people with mental health problems towards people with mental health problems in the same way don’t we? Of course we do – but only in the imaginations of people who aren’t quite in touch with the reality of the discrimination we face daily.
Anyway the upshot is that if I still want to be a volunteer (which I certainly don’t) then one of his junior officers will be talking to me. When he does I’ll send him back with a quote which will have to be translated from Anglo Saxon and then I’ll walk away.
I think me and voluntary work are truly over and I can still look after my community by being the “go to” person for the woman I was speaking to today. Respect for other people is inexpensive, disrespect is cheap but staying around and letting people disrespect you is cheaper still. I’m too valuable to be misused and people who try to do that don’t get a second chance these days.