But finding a good volunteer program is hard. Not because it's difficult to become a volunteer, but because many of the organizations here are run by churches. Which is fine, except many of them try to push their church and their beliefs onto their volunteers, going so far as to either reject or guilt trip their volunteers simply for not being diehard churchgoers.
Perhaps the worst of these so-called volunteer programs was an organization loosely called "Hot Dogs for the Homeless." The premise was simple: every weekend, the group met down at the Denver Rescue Mission* to feed the homeless.
*Fun fact: this is actually the location where our Slim Dyson novel was set, and Slim's rotating home away from home
Everyone's job was to hand out hot dogs and refreshments to the homeless people (there were hundreds), and to talk to them. Just make them feel cared about. Well... that's what the organizers said. What they really meant was "preach about Jesus until their ears fall off." Which my wife did not want to do.
So every weekend, each homeless person was given a hot dog and then preached to by morons that have no business spouting anything about life lessons, while the homeless relented and listened because hey, at least I get free food. Basically a captive audience in the most shitty, degrading way possible. "I'm feeding you, so now you HAVE to listen about Jesus." That might sound exaggerated, but that really was the way it was spun.
Everything about them was aggressive. The way they preached to the homeless: in not so many words insinuating that if they didn't turn to Jesus RIGHT NOW they'd be homeless forever and die. The way they preached on their Facebook pages: "Look at me, here's 106 pictures of last night's event! I'm being a good person! Do you see me being a good person? Aren't I good? VALIDATE ME!" And even the way they preached to my wife: "We're starting to get really concerned about you. You NEED to come to our church to get the 'full experience', otherwise you're just a half-assed heathen*".
*Incidentally, Half-assed Heathen is the name of my upcoming Indie electronica project
And it didn't help that they were every bit as stupid as they were stubborn. One night, while serving hot dogs, one of the homeless wobbled up to them, muttered weakly, "Please help," and then collapsed on the street and started seizing violently. This was how everyone responded.
My wife: Somebody call an ambulance!
The idiot woman running this thing: No, stand back! Nobody call anyone! I'm going to pray for him until he stops dying!
Some other moron: I know, let's ALL pray for him, loudly, like an obnoxious Indian war dance! Chanting nonsense certainly trumps calling trained medical professionals!
Needless to say, the wife stopped going. Ultimately, she chose staying home and doing nothing over going out to help people and spending 4 hours getting incessantly harped at by all of the organizers for not sharing their every exact opinion or going to their church. Which is not just sad but infuriating.
You can't just hold someone who's starving hostage with a cheap piece of food and scream at them about Jesus until they believe, anymore than I can point a gun to your head and force you to read one of our books until you tell me you love it. I wish I could. That'd be awesome for book sales. But I also know that's not how life works.
But, you know, if you want to eat The Sensationally Absurd Life and Times of Slim Dyson on your own free will, it's a pretty damn good novel that humanizes the homeless community, starring a positive, happy-go-lucky homeless writer whose only want is to write. Or you could read it. That's good too.
Regardless, if I'm ever sick or feeling down, please do pray for me. I appreciate it. But if I've just been shot in the abdomen by a double-barrel shotgun and my insides are oozing onto the outside, then for God's sake, don't pray for me. Call a fucking ambulance.
Cheers and stay classy, friends,
Bryan (and Brandon)
Music: Dustin Tebbutt
Beer: Big Choice Poblano Stout
(A big thanks to Riot Kitty for reminding me of these ridiculous people)