It is apparently not enough for AmeriCorps that we work full-time for very little -- we must also do additional service on some of the days regular employees have off. I was a bit annoyed to find out a week ago that rather than spending my Veterans Day in some state of relaxation or its opposite (house cleaning), I was expected to spend my free afternoon volunteering at a service for veterans at a nursing home.
However, one of the hidden graces of being a realist with a pessimistic/critical bent is that every so often I get shown up and thoroughly proven wrong by something I wasn't looking forward to.
This afternoon, after helping to anoint the social hall with cheap USA-themed decor, I sat down next to Fran (who, was once, among other things, a professional singer, Miss Hungarian-American, a tap dancer, an interfaith hospice minister, and the wife of a compulsive gambler) and her boyfriend Armand (whom Fran constantly told me was, unfortunately, stuck with her -- this when her eyes weren't welling up at how lucky they were to have each other). One of our first exchanges was as follows:
F: You're very pretty.
S: Well thank you, you're very sweet to say that.
F: [a little peeved] No I'm not! I'm honest.
After hearing about their lives (or what they could remember) and helping put mustard on their ham sandwiches, it was time for Fran and Armand to head back to their floor. But not before one of the other elderly veterans at our table (whom I had not interacted with) pulled over his wheelchair, reached under his sweatshirt, and pulled out this:
A plastic cup full of daisy plucked, I'm guessing with some effort, from the flower pots decorating the stage. He said, "Here you go sweetheart" and wheeled off.
I eat my earlier complaints about federal holiday service projects. Who couldn't use more afternoons of being told how attractive they are and being given flowers by strangers?