Tomorrow I am doing a community service thing with my office. We’re going to go to a senior center and help out with a party they are throwing for the residents.
In theory this is a good thing. Even in practice it is a good thing.
Except I’m scared.
Okay, here’s the thing. First off I was thrown under the bus by the person who arranged this because while everyone else in the office is just going to be helping with decorations and serving food, I am going to be entertaining. I wasn’t asked if I wanted to. I was volunteered.
And by now if you know me you know exactly how I feel about being volunteered without my knowledge or consent.
But this particular one goes a little deeper for me.
My grandmother used to be a nurse in a nursing home. And one year, when I was in about 6th , my school decided it would be a good thing to go to the nursing home and put on a show. It was some kind of a Christmas program as I recall, involving a bunch of “cute kids” singing carols and passing out gifts and cards to the residents.
This is a good thing. Both in theory and in practice. I know that such places are starved for entertainment and for general human interaction. I know that residents of such places are very lonely.
And it has been pointed out that magicians use such opportunities to build their shows and perform for an audience that is deeply appreciative. And can even make some decent money doing so, though obviously there are better reasons than just dollars to do such things.
Except I’m scared.
See, during that little Christmas show I was a part of all those years ago, I walked the halls of the facility passing out cards and gifts. At one point I stopped and handed a card to an elderly lady but before I could move on she grabbed my hand and began crying. She clutched my hand and arm so hard that I would have had a very difficult time escaping without hurting her. She tried to pull me in closer to her and while I know intellectually that she had no ill intentions, emotionally I was never prepared for that and there were no adults in the immediate vicinity to help me.
I found myself holding very still and listening and doing the best job a kid that young could do to try and comfort her, to make her feel a little less lonely, and through all of it I was very scared. I didn’t know or understand back then just how difficult it can be for people in such facilities. I didn’t have the maturity to deal with it.
It wasn’t long before an adult came along and got me out of that situation. Maybe no more than a minute. But clearly that situation has stayed with me far longer than I ever realized.
Now, I’ve been ambushed again. This time by one of my own co-workers by offering me up without asking me in advance. But I’m not shying away from this either.
Those fears that I thought were long gone have re-emerged. I understand them much better. I am not as worried about them as once I was. I am even eager to engage and perform for these people because I have a much better understanding of them and their emotional load.
And I have that little touch of fear but the tools I need to be able to face it and overcome it.
I don’t anticipate it will be a huge challenge honestly. I mean until this whole thing came up I didn’t realize I was still carrying around any of those feelings at all. But it’s good to know that I am going in to this situation prepared and more focused than I ever have before.
What will be most interesting to me in the end of this is how they will receive me. I will not be doing a lot of entertaining. Only about 15 minutes. But, after circumventing the person in my office who arranged this, I spoke with the entertainment director at the Senior Center and what started out as my being thrown under the bus has now become a kind of audition.
You see, they’d like to be able to have a magician they can bring in more frequently to do shows for them. They were looking in to it already when my name came up. So now, for them and for myself, I will be going in with a much better feeling and attitude. I’ll challenge my old fear and be free of it, and if all goes well, I’ll come out of it not just better internally, but better externally with a contact and a future venue.
All from a small ambush.