Monday, May 4, 2015

How Long Should We Stay?

We've been in the Osceola National Forest since last October, but we began duties over here at Olustee in February and are now the only volunteers serving here... again. The other volunteer couple, who have only been here matter of weeks, left Sunday morning. They weren't here long enough to fully enjoy the local culture and color. They were still tourists, visitors. And perhaps they preferred it that way.

We began duties at Olusrwee Beach in Feb, 2015
When we first began wandering and volunteering we thought we'd want to be on the road, rolling one place to another most of the time... six week volunteer posts would be plenty long. Well, there aren't many of those short term posts and, as it turned out, we wanted an assignment near our granddaughter in Las Vegas and that meant a six month commitment. That's when we learned an important lesson... at least for us.

Richard and I enjoy Peach at Kol HaMashiach
To some degree, like most folks, we have a need for "community." We want to belong, build bonds, no matter how casual... think of the old sit com Cheers, "where everybody knows your name." We find ourselves to be like that. We like to get to know the local culture and people, but we still have the wanderlust.
We felt like family at KHM's home style Pesach (Passover) Seder. Note Richard on the far left top.
For example, for us, Passover is a big deal and sharing the special meal, the Seder, is extremely important to us. How nice it was to have been worshipping and fellowshipping at KHM long enough to not be "visitors" any more. We've been here seven months and feel truly bonded with these blessed folks.

Six months is a good length for us, but how do you go about getting well connected in that time? Church or synagog is certainly one way. Being Messianic believers, we have a harder time finding like believers locally. In Vermont, we made a 260 mile round trip for Shabbat Torah studies. There was not really a traditional Shabbat service.

Of course, most volunteers build relationships with the people they work with and for and the campers they serve. Volunteers come in all sorts of styles... the loners, the partiers, the organizers, the servants, the closed and the open books. The same is true of park and forest employees, but they also have roots, whereas the volunteers tend more to float.

Getting to know the community and becoming a part of it in six months requires a conscious effort and a deep love and acceptance of other people. But before you build a rapport with folks, you need to get out there amongst them. 
VFW Bingo, a larger post and crowd than we usually visit.
One of our methods is Bingo. We go play at as many places as we can find. Bingo is a common fund raiser and they welcome walk-ins. We play at Moose Lodges, Grange halls, the VFW and the American Legion. We play at the "over 55" mobile home parks, Catholic churches... it's not high dollar, but warm and friendly folks are there who are intrigued by our lifestyle and my impressive collection of sparkly Bingo daubers.

We also eat out a lot, seeking small mom and pop eateries where we can get to know the regular diners and the staff. We drop in on car shows, city park gatherings and attend local plays and concerts by local performers. 

We're out and about and because we talk to strangers and smile a lot, people notice and remember us. True, part of that is because we have a distinctive look that people remember. I have long hair and wear a kippah (Skull cap) and tzitziot (tassels), and Richard is tall and has a uniquely charming face and voice. We love people and perhaps that shows. Sure hope so! 


  1. I imagine the traveling lifestyle can be rough when it comes to creating friendships but it sounds like you guys are doing great at making it work. Kudos to you both!

    1. I am more of a people person who likes a more active social life, but Richard is good natured and rolls along with me, LOL

  2. What does the kippah, should I say....symbolise? Wish we would run into one another some of these days!

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    2. Generally, the kippah is a reminder that G-d is always watching over us and is always above us... It is also a way of giving honor and respect for Him. For me, as a Messianic Jew, it fulfills the purpose of a head covering, as married Orthodox Jewish women wear, as well as the covering called for in Paul's New Testament writings. many Christian women