VOLUNTEERING MATTERS: Meeting Cheryl

MEETING CHERYL

by Lydia Bogar

Religion or rumor? Is it true that you meet people for a reason, a season, or a lifetime? For me, the best of the best is the surprise meeting, connecting with someone you never would have met in any other place at any other time.

Is that meeting spiritual or emotional? To share. To grow. To learn.

Does that person meet your unspoken need, or do you meet theirs?  Maybe it’s both.  Either way, it can be powerful.

Last Saturday, I was a volunteer at the WGBH Food and Wine Festival where I anticipated being a helper and nothing more–well, except maybe a chance to indulge in a little taste of something yummy.  I was pleased to be at this event in Brighton where the décor was beautiful, the fall evening was mild with a slight breeze, and music was in the air.

I was assigned to be a greeter, providing guests with wine glasses and programs.  About an hour into my shift, late in the afternoon, I met Cheryl.  She was a lady of color about 50 years old, not very tall, casually dressed, and a graduate student at Northeastern.

Everywhere, there were pleasant, welcoming smiles. I cannot honestly say why Cheryl’s smile stood out in the crowd, but her thanks for the program was sincere and from the heart, not automatic like so many others. Sometimes volunteers at large events like this are treated like beige wallpaper, so I was certainly happy to be acknowledged.  I was even happier to be given the opportunity to accompany her into the tent.

As we walked through the tent, Cheryl shared her very personal responses to the aromas and tastes of the food and drink inside the big tent. I stood silently by her and absorbed her nuanced vocabulary.  I wondered if she was a professional chef. The fabulous green beans that I heard about from others as the night wore on. The ice cream, something flash-frozen and beyond delicious. A unique taste of lamb.  Some wonderful artisan chocolate. And gin, a surprise addition to the beverages that were usually limited to wine and beer.

When I returned to my post near the gate and picked up a program that described the tent’s offerings, I found that Cheryl’s descriptions were more interesting, detailed, and profound than what had been provided in the glossy script.  Thinking back to our chat, I started craving green beans.

The happiness in her voice told me that her experience had been totally worth the price of admission; whatever her needs were that day, they had been met. She was tapping her toes to the jazz quartet’s music and starting up new conversations when I saw her an hour later.  Had talking to me added to her experience?  She said it did; in fact, she said it twice.

Meeting Cheryl was a privilege. I was happy that our conversation felt so personal, and not simply like an event guest communicating with a “host face.” There was little time or opportunity for me to actually taste the food inside the big tent, and of course, no wine; I was on duty.  But her vibrant descriptions had provided a vicarious thrill.  Even more important, though, she brought me peace and a smile, both appreciated and reciprocated.

I enjoyed her joy, which was bountiful.

As I walked with her toward the exit ramp, I wished her luck with her final semester and her upcoming job hunt. The gap in our ages showed. I am grateful that, in my retirement, I never have to go on another job interview or read the postings of jobs at my pay grade (or to even be reminded, by some, of my paygrade).

I silently wish her strength and courage, even though she obviously has both. Being in the moment – her moment – was a bonus.

Cheryl is blind, and she enabled me to see.

Frequent BOLLI blogger, Lydia Bogar

Our own “Renaissance Woman,” Lydia has done everything from teaching English to doing volunteer emergency service.  We’re lucky to have her volunteering, these days, to help with BOLLI Matters!

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