“Vim” and “Pep”

September 21, 2012 § 1 Comment

My hosts’ lives are fast-paced and, at times, stressful. A couple of days ago, they were busier than usual. One had to take their eldest son to a doctor’s appointment in Lyon. Lyon’s a two-and-a-half hour drive from here. This amounted to five hours away from home, not taking into account the amount of time spent at the hospital for the appointment. The other was tied up at his wine shop for the better part of the morning. When he came home, he headed straight to the backyard to clean out the swimming pool.

I offered to make dinner, and my hosts didn’t refuse. I had a simple lentil soup in mind, with plenty of fresh Swiss chard. I also offered to make some bread—I noticed that we’d run out— and roast some vegetables from the garden.

When my host returned from Lyon with her son, she asked if there was anything she could do to help me with dinner. I told her, kindly, no. Nothing at all, apart from picking a few stalks of chard for me. Which she did.

She and the rest of the family headed out for a quick, pre-dinner bike ride while I finished the meal.

We enjoyed a large pot of lentil soup, two loaves of unfussy white bread, and a pan of roasted peppers, zucchini, and beets.

The following morning, I noticed some kitchen cabinets’ doors were greasy. The insides were covered with dust and spilled flour. The contents were disorganized. So I cleaned and reorganized them. I did my best to make things were easier to find.

I asked one of my hosts what she thought of my work. She was pleased. She advised me to bring the “vim” and “pep” I’d demonstrated in these two instances to future volunteer posts.

“Vim” and “pep.” These were words, she said, she hadn’t used since her cheerleading days.

Take initiative.

This isn’t always a simple thing to do. I admit that I don’t always take initiative. Sometimes I wait for others to tell me what to do. I ask a lot of questions. I second-guess myself.

I’ve avoided taking initiative during previous volunteer posts for fear of making mistakes. I fear I might’ve given former hosts the wrong impression.

Then again, I’m smart enough to know that you can’t spend a significant amount of time waiting for other peoples’ instructions. You need to exercise good judgment at some point.

You need to think for yourself.

I need to think for myself.

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