When I first started as a Peer Leader, I was nervous. I thought that not having a site, unlike my year as a VMC, would leave me aimless or unmotivated. Instead, I got to live vicariously through all 29 of the Volunteer Maryland Coordinators.
It was kind of like being obsessed with an HBO show when you don’t have HBO. You can’t watch, so you just read the episode summaries on Wikipedia and talk to your friends about it (a lot), and every so often you get the chance to go to someone else’s home and watch an episode live. It’s such a thrill that it keeps you hooked and asking for more. So let me tell you about my favorite series, The Life and Times of a Volunteer Maryland Coordinator. There are other people who are much more qualified to speak to the details, after all, they actually lived them, but I read the books so I think I’m qualified to tell you all about it anyway and make predictions.
Let’s start with the setting. The communities I (vicariously) worked with throughout Maryland were incredibly different and incredibly the same. Wherever I went, I saw diverse groups of people coming together, driven by a pragmatic optimism and a basic need to connect. From clients to volunteers, no one would be in this work if we didn’t think things could get better. Sites are the hub and the fuel for this. They reinforce these feelings and attitudes and give physical form to intentions.
The characters in this show are incredible. They’re complex, they’re
intense, but they’re ultimately focused on one thing: the mission. The great challenge set before these Volunteer Maryland Coordinators is to catch a thousand petals on the wind and somehow make flowers from them. It’s so exciting to watch, but also very anxiety-inducing. I like to think I’m not just shouting at the TV when I try to offer then words of advice, but either way they somehow always work it out.
As you could guess, the my experience following this show has been nothing like what I expected. It was a profound lesson in communication, yet also in letting go. You find your limits when you’re pulled in fourteen different directions, but you also find your comforts. More than that, you find your sources of joy.
I found that in each episode, or each visit, there didn’t need to be a major plot point, there just needed to be some sort of revelation. Some sign that after the encounter something would be different, and for the better. I guess I have that insatiable optimism too.
So there it is: my favorite show in a nutshell. The second season has been nothing like the first, but it turned out to be just as intriguing and rewarding. Oh, and spoiler alert! I think the Volunteer Maryland Coordinators will all have a happy ending.