Freelance Diversions: Volunteering

Grand Rapids Downtown Market plan drawing.

In my ongoing quest to find the perfect occupational blend of meaningful skill use, time on my feet, career advancement and human interaction, I’ve started volunteering at the new Downtown Market.

For two hours on Tuesday mornings, while the husband and child (hopefully) continue to sleep, I will stand at the entrance to the outdoor market and greet shoppers. I will also answer their questions and document their visit with a click of a tally counter. Those things are fun to use, incidentally.

My decision to do this has been met with some confusion. I do not make money. I have to get up at our equivalent of 3am. The task is not particularly challenging. Why on Earth would I add this to my list of to-dos?

The answer is simple: I’m looking to combat stagnation and meet new people who share my interests. I’m also hoping to learn more about the market itself, and maybe increase my chances of actually working there someday. It’s in walking distance from our house, and will be open all year ’round after this fall. The market is one of those places in Grand Rapids to which I would happily give 40 hours of my week, if I had to spend them anywhere other than at home, on the beach or in Ireland. I see volunteering there as a way to become visible to anyone looking.

Beyond that, there are perks outside of those typically expected from a job. Standing/strolling around outdoors for two hours, while a challenge for my back, is good for me. I get to talk to the vendors and take advantage of early morning selection. I get to see the market and city come to life, from the rush of US 131 traffic to the unloading of apples to the emergence of a man from beneath the Wealthy Street bridge. I have a view of the city that I’ve never experienced before, and my 200 square foot station forces me to really take a good look.

In my pondering, I hope that this new market is a hub of Grand Rapids food culture. I also hope that it is accessible to those citizens whose lives cannot move beyond the downtown area. These are the people who really need quality food, and it would be wonderful if this new place provided that connection.

This stream of thought reminded me of an article a friend shared recently about how fast food actually has far more influence on the health of the masses (meaning, those who could benefit most from a diet change) than does any farmers’ market. While I take some issue with the admission that McDonald’s has to sneak whole wheat flour into burger buns if anything’s going to change, the sad truth is not lost on me.

Anyway, this is basically all a part of my grand plan to do work that I believe is important. My patience for the pointless has worn to transparent, and I’m ready to sacrifice a little today to feel fulfilled in the long run.

2 Comments

Filed under I'm a Professional

2 Responses to Freelance Diversions: Volunteering

  1. A wonderful post. These types of markets tend to be successful and do wonders for individuals and communities. Sounds like it’s also inspiring you and expanding your view of Grand Rapids. This is a story I’m eager to follow.

    Best of luck.

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