I chose to lend what little skills I have to Oakland’s Elizabeth House, the culmination of one woman’s – one woman! – dream to help women and children who are homeless, victims of domestic violence, and otherwise in need of help. I was warmly greeted by the volunteer coordinator and the other volunteers, who included a sorority, a City employee, a couple of lawyers, and some high school students.
I spent some time with the high school kids, priming and painting the ceilings of two rooms, along with the tedious prep always involved. While the primer dried, I joined the others in the bright sunshine, weeding and removing drifts of leaves. We couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful day, but we managed to make it a little more beautiful. We filled 10 big paper Home Depot yard bags and had to resort to plastic garbage bags for the rest. I discovered that gingko trees drop fruit that becomes very spiky and surprising, especially when lurking under leaves. By the time I went back inside to finish painting, I was scratched and dirty and smelling of rosemary from taking leaves out of a bush’s fragrant branches.
When the painting was done, I went back into the sunshine to help mulch the flower beds. It looked so great when it was finished! We were joined by neighborhood kids and two of the children who live at the shelter. They had great fun raking and sweeping.
When I left, we all hugged each other and the youngest child, a little girl who more than lives up to her name of Vitality, asked me to pick her up so she could give me a kiss.
It was a wonderful day. Though I’m tired now and will definitely feel it tomorrow, I am filled with joy to have shared such a wonderful experience, to feel part of my community, and to have honored Dr. King and his message on the eve of one of the most important days in American history.