I bought myself a previously owned car recently. “Previously owned” means used, but It’s a BMW which makes me feel better about it. To compensate, I bought myself a new pair of Tom Ford designer sunglasses. My boyfriend doesn’t wear sunglasses and he drives a truck with over 100,000 miles on it that he’s had for ten years. I like shiny, new things with high end labels and he likes labels that say things like “non-perishable.”
He’s a musician who earns his living teaching guitar and playing his bluesy, rocking gigs in low ceilinged clubs around town. But he also spends an inordinate amount of time volunteering as the Director of a Big Food Pantry here in our “village.” On Monday’s and Friday’s, from the parking lot of a local Church, this organization feeds the homeless and those whose incomes fall below the poverty line. His dedication to the cause is one of the many things I love about him. “It’s important work,” he’ll say, “and if I won’t do it, who will?” While I often think, someone else?? I’ll just wrap my arms around him and say, “Go get ‘em, honey!”
It’s not just Monday’s and Friday’s that keep him busy, though. It’s the days in between that it seems most like a full-time job. There are pantry trucks that need servicing. Food donations and deliveries from supermarkets that need to be coordinated. He leads tours for schools whose privileged students need community service hours over which he will supervise. He oversees all of the other volunteers and runs the board meetings, too, and he’s been doing this, unpaid, for as long as he’s had that truck of his. It’s as if he runs a Fortune 500 company, without the ‘fortune’ or any of the perks, including a paycheck.
Early in our relationship, he received a substantial check for the pantry. He was beyond happy. I asked him, “So how much of that do you get to keep?” He looked at me with creased eyebrows and said, “I don’t keep any of it, sweetheart.” He then added earnestly, “Do you know how many people I’ll be able to feed with this much money?”
Did I mention that he also performs at the Children’s Hospital once a month? To sick and dying children? He volunteers to do that, too. I’m not kidding.
I often wonder where his superhero cape is and how much it would cost to get the Louis Vuitton logo on it.
To be clear, I work hard for the things I have and the labels I’ve acquired (although even my sister doesn’t think that being a writer is a “real” job).
My boyfriend jokes that I’m his “uptown girl” and while he appreciates the ‘finer’ things, he’s happy to let them fall under my jurisdiction. I also do my share of good deeds, but they are of average variety. I donate what I can to organizations I believe in. I’ve marched in support of many causes… but there’s really no comparison. My boyfriend is a do-gooder with a fully funded Karma account, and I am happily, do-gooder adjacent. Three years into this wonderful and wacky relationship, and somehow, it works. He is genuine in his compassion, generosity, and selflessness in a world where these qualities, especially today, are sorely lacking….and he plays guitar! No wonder he makes me swoon!
I rolled up to the pantry one Friday morning in my new car, the homeless volunteers whistled in admiration as they circled it, smiling. I like these guys and thanks to my love, I have an appreciation for where they’ve been and how far they’ve come. One lives in his car and takes meds for his schizophrenia. The other lives in subsidized housing in a not great neighborhood, but at least it’s a home with a roof, heat and running water. These are the kinds of things that my boyfriend helps facilitate.
They slapped him on the back, commenting on my “sweet ride” as he slid into the passenger seat and we headed out for some coffee. We weren’t gone long. My boyfriend had a fight to break up back at the pantry… and I had a cape to find.