All I really wanted when I was a teenager (besides being a size four and for my bangs to feather) was to be of use. I wanted to be necessary, indispensable, valued for my contributions to the world.
I’m not kidding.
I was a volunteer extraordinaire.
I watched babies in the church nursery. I helped with a 4-H group. I taught Sunday School. I bagged sandbags during a flood. I scrubbed refrigerated cases in a food co-op. I sold baked goods at rest stops on the freeway to raise money. I walked in a Walk-a-thon.
But by far, my favorite volunteer activity was working as a “Volunteen” at the local hospital.
I wore a pink smock and helped out on the “broken bones” floor. I gave patients cups of cold water. I ran errands for nurses. I fed people.
I loved it.
But the problem was that my parents refused to give me rides to any of my activities, no matter how altruistic the cause. They forced me to take the public bus (which always terrified me, probably for no good reason) or beg for a ride from an acquaintance or friend. I hated to ask for a ride only slightly less than I hated to wait in the dark for a public bus.
An acquaintance of mine (her name was Mary and she was so blond she had nearly no color at all) also volunteered at the hospital. Her father was a doctor there. Her mother picked her up after our shift.
I asked Mary if her mother would mind giving me a ride home, too. After all, we lived in the same small town. She agreed on behalf of her mother and that settled that. Instead of having to stand on the street corner in the dark, waiting for the bus, I could ride the seven or ten miles home in a private car, in safety.
But Mary’s mother could not hide her annoyance with my presence in her car. I don’t understand it to this day. She did have to drive probably three miles round-trip out of her way to deliver me to my driveway and perhaps that was just too much to ask.
I still have a sick feeling when I think about how much that woman appeared to resent me. She probably can’t remember me, but I remember her.
Other people’s parents can be so mean to teenagers.