Never Can Say Goodbye (in my Michael Jackson voice)

As I sit here and listen to this classic by the Jackson 5, I can’t help but think about how the words represent an almost exact reflection of my service year.  No, I am not a love-sick adolescent boy pining after a girl’s love; however I am an AmeriCorps member (and soon to be alum for a second time) whose life was profoundly affected by the two service years spent with Volunteer Maryland.

At the end of the service year, many members are relieved to be done.  They may go on to become big-wig bank executives, business owners, or millionaires even!  The point is that they think they are saying good bye to a period of their life and entering another, when in fact, their service and time spent as AmeriCorps members will always be a part of their lives.  I will forever be grateful for the experiences over these past two years.  I know that the decisions that I make in the future will forever be impacted by my service with AmeriCorps through Volunteer Maryland.

This year, I’ve had the opportunity to interact with several different AmeriCorps Alums from different programs throughout the area. In every conversation, there was a common thread to be observed:  their service in AmeriCorps impacted their decision to do the things they loved.  From gaining the confidence and financial opportunity to travel abroad, to starting a nonprofit, to running one of the most recognized nonprofit organizations in Baltimore City.  All of these individuals attribute their willingness to continue serving to their initial service with AmeriCorps. When asked, what advice they would give to current members, many of them said to take advantage of any and every opportunity.  Many said to appreciate the accomplishments as well as the challenges and to be confident in your ability to handle both. Others said to be confident in your ability to lead and manage people.

While the year is occurring, it’s hard to see the growth and development that one experiences.  The focus is always on the here and now, not on the future and planning for it. After completing the service year, one is left with a set of skills that set them apart from others.  What many don’t realize is that they are also left with a set of competencies that value service and that these values will forever have an impact on the decisions they make in the future.  Whether they plan on doing another year of service with another AmeriCorps program or they plan to volunteer regularly at a local school; it’s important to know that one of these values will have informed their decision is their service experience.

As this year draws to a close, I am looking forward to seeing where my service will take me.  Although I am saying goodbye to Volunteer Maryland, I’m not saying goodbye to service.  It will always be a part of my life.  So instead of saying goodbye to the service year, I say “see you later” because I never will really say goodbye; just like the song says.

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Memories…

So this, my friends, is the second to last blog post that I will be writing as a Volunteer Maryland Regional Coordinator.  I’m a little sad, a little forlorn, but mostly nostalgic.  As Regional Coordinators, Megan (the other RC) and I are also preparing to say goodbye to our service year.  Our days are filled with finalizing on-going projects, checking in on the Volunteer Maryland Coordinators (VMCs), and planning the last of our regional outings.  Another important part of year-end preparations is cleaning out our desks and files.  For me, this sort of task would normally be the equivalent sticking my hand down the garbage disposal and flipping the on-switch.  Surprisingly though, I am enjoying going through the papers and items that I’ve collected over the past year. 

The files that I’m currently organizing hold some really fantastic memories.  For example, I ran across the tablet that I used to take notes on during this year’s Pre-Service Training, a 2-week training session that starts off every Volunteer Maryland Coordinator service year.  I remember being so nervous about meeting my region.  Would they like me?  Would they understand my role?  Would I like them?

I also came across an old to-do list.  I’m assuming (there is no date) that this particular list was created some time in January because one of the items was “MLK Day Materials Gathering”.  Half of the list was typed and half was hand written, signifying my on-going battle with disorganization.  I looked at this to-do list, and then I looked my current to-do list, neatly written out in a planner and organized by month, date, and time.  Oh, how far I’ve come!  Further, looking at this to-do list, I had a realization that many AmeriCorps members serving with Volunteer Maryland have done a good amount this year.   From recruiting volunteers, to starting peer-mentoring programs, to facilitating trainings; VM Class 23 has done some great things! 

I pulled out a folder entitled “VM24 Site Visits” and opened to my notes for discussion.  Every year, Volunteer Maryland schedules visits with organizations interested in partnering to receive a Volunteer Maryland Coordinator for the following year.  The organizations are required to apply to the program, giving a detailed record of their mission, vision, community need, and setting some parameters for the future Volunteer Maryland Coordinator’s responsibilities.  My role during these visits was to support the conversation by asking questions and getting clarification if needed.  I remember being very nervous on this particular visit.  When Maureen (our Program Director) and I were greeted, I realized that I knew the person we were meeting with!  What a small world!

Cleaning and organizing my files in preparation for the end of my service year is a  sad process, but positive at the same time.  I had the opportunity to meet so many different and incredible people throughout this year!  I remember planning for each regional meeting.  After one particular meeting in February, I wrote “Keep it Positive”.  This meeting stands out because it took place during the miserable throes of winter at Volunteer Maryland’s monthly In-Service Training Session.  I met with my region for about 50 minutes and it was fantastic!  We started the meeting off with an Affirmation Circle; sort of like the name game.  The first person said a positive adjective that started with the first letter of their name and then said their name.  The next person would say the previous person’s adjective and name and make one up for them self.  This would continue until the last person recited everyone’s name and adjective.  I live for mushy-gushy, feel-good moments and this was one of my favorites!  My region left refreshed, invigorated, and ready to face the difficulties of their service years. 

As this year winds to a close, I’m interested in making sure I preserve the many memories that I have to use for future motivation.  What about you, AmeriCorps Alums?  How do you preserve your memories from your service year?  Please share with us the ways that you have used your memories for motivation!

Keeping It Simple

Many Volunteer Coordinators struggle with finding the most appropriate way to recognize their volunteers.  Some organizations have the budget to put on big, fancy dinners complete with award ceremonies and gift giveaways.  Some organizations don’t.  This post is dedicated to offering simple solutions to the individuals and organizations who want to recognize the awesomeness of their volunteers without hurting their pockets. 

A thank you from the clients:  Nothing says “I appreciate you” more than a thank you directly from the clients who receive the benefit of your volunteer’s service.  Actually hearing the clients acknowledge how your volunteer’s service has impacted their lives is priceless.  A great way to do this inexpensively is to have clients write letters or even to create a video with clients talking about their experiences.

Symbol Gifts:  Another great way to personalize a “thank you” is to acknowledge the individual traits and contributions of your volunteers by way of symbol gift presentations.  A symbol gift is a small gift that you give someone that represents a specific aspect of that particular person.  For example, if you have a volunteer who you know loves kittens and loves to read; an appropriate symbol gift might be book mark with a picture of a kitten on it.  You could make your symbol gift relative to that person or to the person’s volunteer experience.  The point is to make the gift as specific as possible so that the volunteer who you are recognizing feels like you appreciate them for who they are and for their personal experience.  Volunteers will appreciate the thought put into the personalizing of their symbol gift.

Personal notes:  Another great way to recognize volunteers individually is to write them personal notes.  If they’ve just served at an event or participated above and beyond what is normally required, send them something in the mail or leave a note for them in their inbox.  The point is to make sure your volunteer feels like their service is being acknowledged and appreciated. 

Group Outings:  Nothing says thank you like a group of people getting together and having fun.   Now, I know you’re saying to yourself “Didn’t she just get finished talking about how big events hurt the pockets?” In this case, I’m suggesting soliciting an in-kind donation from a local business that values the contribution of volunteers.  For example, most Cici’s Pizza Buffet Restaurants are fantastic at offering free passes to organizations for the purpose of recognizing volunteers.  This option is better for those organizations that have a smaller volunteer base.  For organizations with a larger volunteer base, it may be good to contact a local museum to see if they can offer your volunteers discount coupons, or offer your organization a discount night where all your volunteers can visit the venue and bring their families.  Making your recognition events fun and family friendly will be greatly appreciated!

This is just a smattering of ideas for recognizing the contribution of your volunteers.  This is the season for volunteer recognition, so take advantage of this beautiful weather and say thank you!

Other resources for Volunteer Recognition:

 

Energize Inc.

Cute Ideas

National Volunteer Week

This isn’t what I signed up for

Have you ever signed up for something thinking it was going to turn out one way, but having it turn out differently?  How did that make you feel?  What do you do when all of a sudden you’re unhappy with your present situation but people are depending on you to do your job?  What about when it comes to volunteering?  My past posts have focused on the positive aspects of service.  However, let’s be honest, volunteering isn’t always a bowl of Triple Chocolate Peanut Butter Ice Cream (my new favorite).  Because it’s not a paid gig, most people look at volunteering as not being very important.  As a result, if a volunteer is placed a situation where he or she is unhappy, most of the time he or she will just stop showing up to volunteer.  However, in thoseoccurrences when your volunteer position is vital to an organization’s success, how do you say to the leadership: “this isn’t what I signed up for?”

Tips for Talking About Volunteering

Be honest:  Just because you are a volunteer doesn’t mean that you are expendable.  Staff members at the organization do value your time, energy, and opinions; however they may not have the time to tell you that because they’re busy trying to run an organization.  Shoot your point of contact within the organization an email honestly saying that you were looking for a volunteer opportunity that would allow you to do X,Y, or Z.  Tell them that the roles and responsibilities don’t align with what you originally anticipated.  Ask if there is another role or position for which you might be better suited.  Or ask if there is a way to better tailor your current position to your original expectations.

Refer to the position description:  When describing a volunteer position, most recruiters create position descriptions that outline the roles, responsibilities, and duties of a volunteer.  Referring back to this will give you an opportunity to make sure you didn’t misunderstand the requirements of your position as a volunteer.  If it turns out that you did misunderstand your role, let the leadership know.  The last thing they want to do is to force you to complete tasks that you dread; it looks bad for the organization to have volunteers volunteering for jobs that they hate or aren’t good at.

Ask for a reciprocal relationship:  Most people don’t think of their service as anything more than that.  However, you must think of your service as a partnership.  You are offering services, talents, and skills to an organization because you are looking to get something out of it.  Whether you need documented service hours or you are seeking the sense of satisfaction from giving back, you are still receiving something as a result of your service.  Thus, it’s ok to ask an organization to reciprocate by offering you an opportunity to lead a project or even to receive training in a specific area.

Make suggestions:  Just as most people think that organizations are not interested in developing a relationship, they think that organizations are not open to their suggestions.  WRONG!  If you have an idea that you think would be beneficial to the organization and that will make the lives of volunteers easier, than by all means; SUGGEST IT!  The worse thing that could happen is that the organization’s leadership says no. 

Recruit some help:  A lot of volunteer recruitment occurs as a result of word-of-mouth.  If you are in a volunteer position that is exceptionally challenging, but you enjoy it none the less, than talk it up to your friends!  That way, they come volunteer their services and give you a little relief in your role as a volunteer because your duties are divided between two people. 

Tell us about a particularly challenging service experience that you were able to get resolved by talking about it with the organization!

I Pledge…To Serve No More

A few weeks ago, I had an interesting conversation with a colleague.  We were talking about our respective service years in AmeriCorps and how our service makes a difference within areas of need in our communities.  She said that while she felt like her service was meaningful, there’s only so much that one person can do.  Problems in our society aren’t going to change and that people should just do their job and go home.  Her statement seemed a little counter-productive to me.  In an effort to end the conversation on a positive note, I suggested that even though there are universal problems, the way those problems manifest are different and that maybe creating specific solutions for specific communities is a better solution to solving the world’s ills.  Granted, I don’t believe that the world’s ills can be resolved on the whole, but I do believe that people can do more than just “their jobs” and see a positive impact on their communities. 

Last Thursday, I had an opportunity to attend a Volunteer Appreciation Dinner for volunteers who served with the Community Preservation and Development Corporation (CPDC), an organization that provides community resources and safe, affordable housing to low income residents.  The event was beautiful and represented that organization’s   commitment to recognizing the efforts of individuals who went above and beyond their “jobs” to make change happen within their respective communities.  From holding weekly Wii championships for residents to volunteering as a mentor in the community youth development program, these volunteers work on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis to serve.  Yes, I will admit that the quotes and sayings thrown around during the evening where very “fuzzy wuzzy” and cliché.  I am not naïve enough to think that saying to someone “Service is the gift that keeps on giving” will convince them that they should do more than their job in order to bring about change.  What I am prepared to do is to suggest that community-based initiatives based on ideas and solutions thought of by all members of a particular community.

The model that CPDC uses is based on the premise of “Neighbors helping neighbors”.  Within this model, residents of their communities are given the means to start programs, run activities, and create change for themselves and for their neighbors.  This model allows them to reap the benefit of serving their community while receiving the benefits of those services.   The keynote speaker, Malkia Lydia of Public Allies DC expounded further on this idea that service is actually a cycle that continues.  Although I liked what she said, and agree that when you serve you also receive, I think the premise of service should be to make your service so impactful that it’s no longer necessary.  You know, the idea that you do your job so well that you work yourself out of it?  This can only be done when organizations, businesses, community members, and government agencies collaborate to bring specific changes to specific communities rather that creating a model that acts as a standard for alleviating social problems on a general scale. 

One quote from the Volunteer Appreciation Dinner that did, however, stick with me was also on the “fuzzy-wuzzy” side, but it reflected my own personal motto for service.  The quote read as follows:  How wonderful it is that no one need wait a single moment to start improving the world.  After later research I found that this is a quote taken from the Diary of Anne Frank. It’s ironic that an adolescent could provide such an insight on service and its potential for impact.  If a teenager can see the benefit of doing more than just your “job”, why is it so hard for us as adults?  What do you do to serve in your community?  Please share your service stories with us here at Volunteer Maryland!

Keeping service a part of your life after AmeriCorps

As the year winds down, Volunteer Maryland Coordinators and AmeriCorps members with Volunteer Maryland are looking forward to transitioning into a new phase of our lives.  While no one enjoys having to mail timesheets every two weeks, one thing it reminds us of on a regular basis is our commitment to serve up to 10% of our time in direct service.  How awesome is it that we are allowed to count our volunteer hours towards work?  As we transition out of our positions, it would be great to continue that commitment to service on our own. 

AmeriCorps members serve in varying capacities throughout our nation.    From greening to poverty alleviation, members give time and expertise to help nonprofit organizations achieve their missions.  There are a TON of benefits to being an AmeriCorps member.  For example, many people state that they developed their professional skills and gained confidence to transition to a new field or that they gained perspective about the field to which they would like to dedicate their professional careers. 

Another aspect of development that people don’t directly talk about, but evidence is seen in their activities after the end of their year, is the continuation of service in their lives.  Is it surprising that so many AmeriCorps members pursue careers in the public sector after their service year?  Not so much.  What is surprising however is the amount of individuals who state that their direct service was the aspect of their time with AmeriCorps that was the most memorable.  Being able to see how your service has a direct impact on the clients or environment in need is so rewarding.  Many AmeriCorps alums state that their direct service was something that they miss.  Well, ladies and gentlemen, it doesn’t have to be!

If service is something you crave during your day to day existence in your new position, here are some tips for infusing impact into your job! 

  • Suggest an annual service day:  Many employers are happy to adopt a service day that allows employees to service a particular cause.  These sorts of service days are great for fostering a team spirit among employees.  Also, the good publicity doesn’t hurt either!
  • Time with the Clients:  If you work for a nonprofit organization that serves a particular population of clients, ask your boss for some time once or twice a week to work with them.  Being able to see firsthand how your organization serves its clients can to a world of good for productivity and perspective gaining!
  • Mandatory Events:  Take advantage of events that require mandatory staff participation to get to know your volunteers. Ask to help out with volunteer coordination, specifically with volunteer positions that work directly with your clients!
  • Group volunteering: Gather up a group of your co-workers and volunteer with a local organization after hours or on the weekends!  This is another great way to build a team spirit and foster relationships with your co-workers!
  • AmeriCorps Alum Events:  Participate in service events sponsored by AmeriCorps Alums.
  • National Service Days:  Suggest that your company participate in National Service Days and set up a service project to impact a particular cause.

 For all you AmeriCorps Alums out there, what do you do to keep directly serving a cause?

Holistic Happiness

This past Friday, I had the pleasure of attending the Young Nonprofit Professionals Annual Spring Conference in Washington DC with VMC and fellow AmeriCorps member, Leah.   It was fantastic to me to actually be able to converse with individuals in my field who were interested in the same things that I was. 

I had the opportunity to sit in on several very informative sessions.  The one session that stuck with me the most was titled Positive Psychology & Your Career.  In this session, the speakers touched on career planning based on needs and wants.  In this economy, it’s so easy to accept any position in order to be employed.  Less and less people tend to think of their career choices in terms of what they want and need to remain successful and happy, but rather they think in terms of what they need in order to keep the bills paid. 

The first suggestion that they made is to take the time to think about what it is that you would want out of a job.  What skills would you like to contribute to a position?  What skills would you like to learn from a position?  Making a list of all the roles and responsibilities that you want out of a position and virtually crafting your own position description is the starting point for anyone looking to get a career doing something that they love.

The next topic the speakers discussed was the feeling that one gets when they are doing their calling or passion.  The right balance of challenge, opportunity, and success makes for a perfect recipe for fulfillment in any career. 

This got me thinking about the reason that people join AmeriCorps.  As I stated above, this economy is not ripe with job opportunities.  Many people are turning to AmeriCorps as a means of temporary employment.  What many people don’t realize is that AmeriCorps is not a job or a position, but a year of service.  In other words, individuals give one year of their time to the service sector.  They are paid a minimal stipend and offered minimal health benefits.  As a result of that service, members will have contributed to the productivity of countless nonprofit organizations throughout the nation!  If one is merely joining just to have employment in rough times, it may cloud his or her ability to actually see the benefit of his or her work. 

Another item that the speakers addressed during the session was work-life balance.  This is normally so hard to achieve.  They mentioned the usual time management and exercise.   The point they stressed is that we should make professional decisions based on our priorities.  If it’s important for us to make a lot of money, than we should know that that kind of lifestyle requires lots of hours behind a desk.  If working all the time is not how you envision spending your life’s career, this choice may not be the best option.

As AmeriCorps members, it is important to start thinking strategically not only about the kinds of careers that we want but also about the ways that we want our careers to shape our lifestyles.  It all boils down to answering the question:  do we want to work to live or live to work?

I’m interested in learning more about why people join or are considering joining AmeriCorps.  Is it because you want to switch careers and transition to the nonprofit sector?  Is it because you’re looking to do something meaningful as a retired individual?  Are you looking to gain professional development?   What are your thoughts on the job search after the service year?

Bragging rights

Service opportunities are just that; opportunities.  They are a chance for individuals to participate in activities that will enhance their lives and the lives of those around them.  It also provides them with the opportunity to capitalize off of their own talents and skills.  AmeriCorps members, specifically VMCs, are serving at their host organizations and doing really amazing things.  A lot of times, it’s hard to see just how the AmeriCorps experience can be articulated.  Yes, AmeriCorps members use their skills and talents to build capacity for their host organizations. Yes, AmeriCorps members help specific communities in need.  But how do you talk about it?  How do you tell someone what it is that you do?  How do you tell future employers what it is that you are doing as an AmeriCorps member?  My answer:  brag.

For some reason, bragging is looked down upon in our society.  Despite this, when entering into conversation, some of the first things that people ask about is your career, your family, your hometown, or your current place of residence.  Normally, this is considered polite conversation.  To me, it presents an opportunity to brag.  In these conversations, people usually go on and on about their children’s accomplishments, their career accomplishments, or the affluence/lack of affluence of their neighborhood or hometown.  If bragging has such a negative connotation, why do we present ourselves with so many opportunities to do it?

My point:  AmeriCorps members (and several others) do a lot for communities and organizations, in addition to gaining extensive professional development skills.  In order to accurately give someone (especially a future employer) a snapshot of what it is that you do as an AmeriCorps member or volunteer, why not do so in terms of your accomplishments?  According to an article by Quintessential Careers, accomplishments are the points that really help sell you to an employer.  Taking time to explain your experience in terms of accomplishments can help boost your resume, cover letter, and even help your interview! 

Bragging Tips

  • List the special things you did in each service position that you’ve held then list why each of these activities makes you different from others in that position.
  • What did you do to make each service position your own?
  • Write down whether you left the organization that you served with better off than before you served and why.
  • What were you most proud of in each service position?
  • What tangible evidence do you have of your accomplishments within a position: publications, products, documents you’ve written?
  • Quantify your accomplishments!  For example you could write:  I increased the number of volunteers from 2 to 60 over the course of 11 months.

I know, I know bragging doesn’t come naturally to everyone.  Especially not to shy, somewhat awkward people like me.  Here’s the issue.  People brag everyday about things like the delicious meal they had for dinner at whatever new fad restaurant and about the shoes they bought at whatever sale the stumbled upon at whatever high-end, overly-priced store they shop in.  People even brag about how cute their pets are in Christmas costumes!  This might be everyday conversation to some.  To others, it’s bragging.  The point is it’s perfectly ok to brag!  I say, in addition to bragging about your gifted child is, why not brag about what you’ve accomplished while serving?   

For more tips on talking about service accomplishments within the job search, click here!

Thank you, thank you very much!

In case you missed it, Destination AmeriCorps was a HUGE success!  Here is a quick recap of the evening:

–          The event opened with a trivia scavenger hunt with facts about AmeriCorps and Maryland history

–          Event go-ers assembled “I Care” Kits to be donated to the clients of Partners In Care and the Ulman Cancer Fund

–          Event go-ers had a chance to share their story on camera in our 30-second interview Video Booth!

–          A panel of successful AmeriCorps alums shared their experiences and expertise

–          Two networking sessions offering resources for life after AmeriCorps and storytelling for raising awareness

–          Did I mention awesome prizes?

Destination AmeriCorps was Volunteer Maryland’s kick off to National AmeriCorps Week.  Members from Maryland and DC came together to celebrate service and helped us begin a week of celebration and reflection. 

At this time, I’d like to send a big THANK YOU out to everyone who contributed to this event’s success. 

THANK YOU!!!

Thank you to the Destination AmeriCorps Planning Committee members, without you there would be no prizes, no decorations, and no one at the event!

Thank you to Volunteer Maryland staff members!  Thank you to the staff members working through the Governor’s Office of Service and Volunteerism!   Thank you to Park Heights Community Health Alliance!

Thank you to our donors:

Sonic Drive In

Einstein Brother’s Bagels

Planet Fitness

TGI Fridays

Chick Fil A

The Spy Museum

Starbucks Coffee

The Bowie Baysocks

Kiehl’s

Old Pro Golf

Papa Johns Pizza

Target

JH Gift Baskets

AMF Bowling

Frustrated? Laugh and Eat Cake.

The weather is warming.  The sun is shining.  The flowers are blooming.  I want to be outside.  Yes, I said it.  I want to be outside running around in the grass, eating fruit, and letting the sun shine on my skin.  Instead I am in my office, surrounded by grey carpet and white walls.  My post a few weeks ago promised you all that the sunshine was coming.  Now it’s here, and I’m having a very hard time concentrating.

I’m sure many people feel like I do; especially AmeriCorps members.  We are at a place in our year where things are starting to wind down (for some of us) and we are working on sustainability plans for our host organizations.  The newfound time in our schedules breeds wandering minds.  We are asking ourselves questions like: what does the future bring, will we find a job, will we get into the school we want, what to do with our education award? 

With all these uncertainties coupled with the frustration of being stuck in an office all day, it’s sometimes hard to remain positive.  It’s at these points of frustration and irritation that I turn to two of my very favorite things to get me through: chocolate and humor. 

We deal with some heavy issues in the nonprofit field; why not learn to laugh a little?  I’d like to tell you a story with the hopes that it too will lift your spirits as it did mine and make you chuckle as you attempt to power through your workday.  This story has nothing to do with service, nor does it have anything to do with volunteer management, or the nonprofit sector.  It does, however, have everything to do with the need to laugh and not take matters so seriously that it negatively affects our mood in the workplace. 

I am a lover of chocolate.  I am also very particular about my chocolate.  It must be dark.  If there are nuts, they must be almonds or hazelnuts; absolutely no peanuts!  I love all things chocolate flavored: cakes, brownies, cookies, muffins.  I recently discovered the combinations of dark chocolate with chili, dark chocolate with sea salt, and dark chocolate with cracked pepper.  It’s delightful. 

Yesterday, while wading through the never ending sea of documents, file folders, and notepads I heard a voice yell three magic words: “I’ve got cake!”  Startled and confused, I turned to see a woman standing in the middle of the hallway holding an enormous tray of what looked to be dark chocolate devil’s food cake.  “I’ve got cake!” She repeated, holding out the tray.  I had to pause to make sure I wasn’t dreaming and that what I thought was occurring was really occurring.  I carefully asked, “What are you looking to do with the cake?”  She responded in a jolly voice, “Well, someone needs to eat it! I don’t want to take it home.”  I looked over in wonder at Megan, my fellow Regional Coordinator and admitted chocoholic.  This could not be real.  This complete stranger was offering a huge chocolate cake to two unassuming, chocolate-loving AmeriCorps members in the hallway of a government agency!  Fantastic!  This was a chocolate lover’s dream. 

I was so confused by the encounter because the woman was so nice but politely aggressive about giving us this cake.  This was no store-bought cake, people.  This was the real deal and it smelled delicious!  I was not only caught off-guard by her niceness, I was caught off-guard by the fact that someone would offer me my very favorite (not so healthy) thing to eat.  Usually, when people offer you free stuff, it’s something that you have no real use for like a refrigerator magnet with a letter opener attached to it.

I don’t know if this woman was a mind reader or what.  All I know is that Megan and I had a good chuckle over the woman’s insistence.  I immediately felt less stressed out about the fact that Destination AmeriCorps is only one week away and spent the last hour of my workday being extremely productive.  Sometimes, that’s all it takes: laughter and some chocolate cake.  (I didn’t rhyme on purpose either!)

Tell us about an unexpected surprise that refreshed you after a long workday!