This is the face of a happy volunteer.
I thought I wasn't the kind of person who needed the attention that comes from appreciation parties. True givers do the work for the sake of the work, not to be celebrated for it. Right?
We've been volunteering in the Presidio for the better part of this year, and last Thursday was the annual Volunteer Appreciation Dinner where the staff throws a terrific party. The staff cook several turkeys, and everyone who attends brings a dish to share. I debated whether Wyatt and I should go. We'd be out late on a school night, and we didn't really need to be appreciated. We'd show up to work next time with or without a party. But parties are fun, and we like to dress up. So we went, and we are so glad we did.
As we drove up to the party, Wyatt noticed another car arriving at the same time and he said, "Hey! I know those people! That's Abby's car. The convertible BMW. It's got to be her." And sure enough, it was her. She was driving, and had given a ride to several other women we know from the garden and nursery. Once we had said hello, Abby asked if we could carry in some of the things she brought to share. Of course we could.
We checked-in, made our name tags, wrote a label for our shared dish (vegan! gluten-free! with nuts!), and then went in to mingle.
The staff had transformed the office into the most festive dining hall, and they were all still hard at work. Rebecca was tending bar, and she made Wyatt's night by mixing him a Unicorn ("Ginger ale, cranberry juice, and as much sparkling water as your mother would like.") Jean made sure we knew to look for the dressing with the gluten-free sign--she made sure they made some special. And Desmond brought us back to what looked like a gift shop and told us we could choose anything we wanted off the table.
Wyatt chose the orange blanket and I opted for a fleece vest that says "Golden Gate National Parks."
Dinner was truly spectacular. Best potluck ever. While we ate and chatted, they played a slide show of photos from previous years' appreciation parties. Wyatt kept spotting people we know, laughing at goofy photos, and trying to figure out where the photos were being projected from. On the drive home, we debated which side we liked the best (it was the dressing, but so many of the salads were close seconds!), discussed why halvah tastes weird (we tried every gluten-free offering on the dessert table), and exclaimed how glad we were that we went.
It was such a good night, and while we didn't need to be fed an amazing dinner, the truth is we kind of did. It felt good. And it reminded me of a Brené Brown quote: “Until we can receive with an open heart, we're never really giving with an open heart. When we attach judgment to receiving help, we knowingly or unknowingly attach judgment to giving help."
The dish we made to share was the Brussels Sprouts, Apple, and Pomegranate Salad from Smitten Kitchen. It's fancy (thanks to the pomegranate seeds), fast to prepare, and delicious. I couldn't find any brussels sprouts at the store, so I went with a savoy cabbage instead. It was terrific.