As much as I’ve enjoyed my time at Rubicon over the semester I have to be frank in my belief that my presence there didn’t really have a significant impact on the daily operations of the facility and to be quite frank again the day-to-day operations could stand to use some help. From the scarcity of office materials available for use to the inconsistency of the rules that govern client behavior, the tendency towards dysfunction in the facility was difficult to deal with.
The one thing that drove me up the wall the entire semester has the fact that the front desk didn’t have any sticky notes. While the lack of such a simple office supply may seem like a minor irritation it often bordered on the line of ridiculousness. In lieu of sticky notes, people used scraps of paper to write down parcels of information so these scrap pieces of paper were literally everywhere and often cluttered the front desk area. They would often get lost in other piles of paper and randomly go missing. This became problematic because the scraps would contain anything from important phone numbers that needed documentation to the dollar amount owed to someone who lost a battle with the temperamental vending machine in the dining hall.
Anytime I would see a floating scrap or anytime one would go missing I couldn’t help but think how easy it would be for someone to run out to Staples and get a packet of sticky notes and thus cut down on the front desk clutter and the constant loss of information. Sometimes I considered gifting some to the facility but in the back of my head I knew that my supply would eventually run out and more than likely it would not be replenished. The predicament reminded me of Payne’s illustration of a school dynamic that outsiders deemed irrational but insiders deemed functional. For me, the outsider, the scrap of paper thing was completely ridiculous but for everyone else at Rubicon it seemed to work just fine.
As I mentioned earlier I don’t think that my time as a volunteer really changed anything at Rubicon. I didn’t implement any new programming. I didn’t spark a dramatic break through with a client. I didn’t even get the sticky notes. And honestly I never had any intention of doing any of that. Every Thursday I just came in and took a break from my regular life. I got to sit in on group sessions that were surprisingly very therapeutic. I got to hang out with really funny guys that I would have never encountered otherwise. I got to talk to staff members about their lives and pick their brains about current events. As the weeks progressed, going to Rubicon became the highlight of my week. Instead of helping others through my volunteer experience, my time at the facility helped me cope with the stress of senior year. While my experience does not in any way fully capture the kind of critical service learning Mitchell calls for in her piece, I think that it does speak to the seldom-discussed benefits of service to the volunteer.