This last Saturday I spend my day at the marina, in the august role of “Officer of the Day.” Our boat club requires 20 hours of volunteer service each summer, and being OOD is one way to fulfill this obligation. Basically, you serve as ambassador should any transient boaters come in to stay overnight, or if reciprocal members from other clubs come for a time. In addition to this, you are to walk the docks, looking for hazards and such, and answer questions people might have. In my walk-about I generally end up helping people dock their boats, or help send some out on their adventures.
In my experience there are rarely visitors, but I spend a good bit of time chatting with this person and that. It is a nice way to get to know people a bit more. Folk often have a skewed idea of a “Yacht Club.” In my experience, there are very few big expensive boats, but a lot of people sporting modest, 30 year plus sailboats 25 to 30 foot in length.
On Saturday I chatted with a couple who down-sized in retirement, buying a smaller condo and a sailboat. The also provide foster care, and currently attend to a six year old who has had brain cancer. When the weather is right, they bring her aboard the stern of their backed in boat in her wheelchair, where she happily greets all walking by. Another boat hosts a young man with down’s syndrome who greets me with measured enthusiasm. Some folk here are chatty, some are taciturn, some are anxious to help and other are heavily pre-occupied. In a way, the marina is the world.
I think that this OOD program outperforms its purported outcomes. It allows us to get to know one another. This is a gift of the first order. The practice of volunteering grants us the grace of encountering others to the end that we get to know our own selves.
Oddly enough, most of us would not serve as OOD aside from our need to volunteer 20 hours at the club. Of course, some might say that these hours are not voluntary. But you can forgo the 20 hours and pay a bit more in your membership fees. I am always amazed at how a small incentive to do what you should do results in a exponentially larger pay-back. This is the economy of grace, the logic of service, one of the ways in which God works wonders in the world.
The sailing season is on the brink of winding down. I have dutifully finished by volunteer hours. One might say that there is a carrot and a stick to my experience. But more importantly, I note that both carrot and stick disappear when my experience illumines that other people aren’t hell (as per Sartre) so much as other people are health.