I attended a 'thank you' luncheon for my volunteering the other day. There were about 30 people there...staff and volunteers from all the county libraries. Yes, our county is quite rural with only 30 in attendance from 4 libraries.
I was not eager to go because I would only know the head of the library where I volunteered. I rarely crossed paths with the other volunteers in my library because it is so small that only one volunteer can be working at a time. Everyone else at the luncheon would be a stranger. But I told myself to grow up and go up.
I arrived at the restaurant about 5 minutes early and at the same time as a librarian-looking lady. I smiled at her across the parking lot assuming we were going to the same place. I entered the restaurant which was quiet and only a few tables busy and waited for a waitress or hostess. The lady from the parking lot stood behind me and then pushed me aside gently and said, "We are supposed to go straight on back." She huffled on ahead to a noisy room at the far end of the restaurant with not so much as a smile or look-back .
Wow, such friendliness. I put my tail between my legs and followed her to the party room. There were several long tables with a few scattered ladies sitting and talking and others standing in small groups. I looked around to see if there was a table or greeting area or name tag place. Nope. I didn't know anyone. I stood blankly for a minute and another lady, at least she was smiling, told me to take a seat and the waitress would come take my drink order.
I crossed to the table at the far end of the room with about 4 people sitting and found a chair. When I looked around I was happy to see the Director of the library where I volunteered seated just down from me. The 2 women across from her were talking intently about some town festival and I sat there waiting for a pause in the conversation, or at least eye recognition from the lady I will call Trudy. No such luck. I sat with the stupidest smile plastered on my face pretending I was understanding whatever they were laughing about for at least 5 minutes.
Finally I caught Trudy's eye and she smiled and then introduced me to the others. At just about this time the din of conversation in the room got quite loud. Several more people arrived. Librarians are a noisy group when away from the shushing of the library!! I worked hard to hear what people were saying and to actively put in my two cents, trying to be as sociable as I could without screaming or saying what again and again.
By the time the food arrived the noise became lower as people stuffed their faces. Only one brave man (a black man) was at a table. The rest of the people knew each other but seemed to be in little clicks from each library.
One of my reasons for volunteering was to get to know people in the community a little better and since these people came from county wide, it probably wasn't the best venue for this goal.
I ate my lunch, and made as much small talk (which I hate, hate, hate) as I could to make nice. At least I talked. The other volunteer across from me only said about three sentences the whole luncheon.
There were the traditional little speeches. We got our little certificates and a mag-lite gift and our photos taken for the newsletter.
After about two and a half hours of this fun-filled time, I got back in the car and went home. Still looking for some fulfillment. Also, surprised at how being a hostess at an event such as this is a lost skill.
(Heading out for a lengthy trip to the to other side of the continent. May not have Internet access. Will be thinking of you and making mind posts that I am sure I will forget when I return!)