Volunteering during retirement

Where did I leave off last time? Oh, yes … it was June, 2015.

Once again I was learning why God doesn’t always let us know what lies ahead around the bend. The first day on the road to Wimberley, Texas, heading west on I20 in our recently purchased old vintage motor home was a thrill in itself. Sitting high above the cars with our maltepoo Popcorn on my lap, I felt like Queen of the Road! The only problem was that anytime I asked Rob a question he would answer, “I can’t talk now.” I soon learned that with that statement he actually meant, “I can only focus on one thing at a time: driving this 35-foot RV. I’ll tell you when I can talk.”

Okay, I can’t talk to the Pilot, so the co-pilot (me) could only sit quietly, wondering when we could stop so I could go to the bathroom. Then I realized something wonderful… I could turn around and carefully walk to our very own traveling bathroom. What a way to travel! I did that several times before Rob finally turned in to a Rest Stop to fix lunch in our very own little kitchen. As soon as we parked in the midst of several Walmart trucks, Rob turned off the ignition and fired up the generator so we could use our very own air conditioner.

After I walked Popcorn over to the assigned dog area, we were off again. “We’ll stay in Montgomery, Alabama tonight,” Rob announced. In the meantime, my assignment as co-pilot was to keep my “RV Parky” app on hand to tell him where the Love’s Travel Stop, Flying J stations, and the Rest Areas were located.

It was getting dark so we decided to do what many RVers do—stay overnight in a Walmart parking lot—but quickly changed our minds when we pulled in and parked. In a matter of minutes we spied groups of young men standing around, walking around, hanging out … checking out their surroundings. “Something doesn’t feel right,” Rob stated. I just nodded my head in agreement.

I made a few calls to nearby RV parks and decided on one just ten miles southwest on the interstate. “We’re closed but just pull in anywhere, and I’ll see you in the morning,” said the older lady with a deep southern drawl. Whew!

The next morning we hit the road bright and early. The first thing Rob said when we were cruising down the interstate was, “I think we’ll forget about Walmart parking lots and stay in RV parks on this first trip.” I laughed, and replied, “You must have read my mind.”

We had a great second day and stayed in a nice RV park in Duson, Louisiana. “I don’t want to alarm you, but I keep hearing a strange noise … and the air conditioner keeps turning off,” Rob casually said after I returned from my evening swim. “We HAVE to have air conditioning in this hot and humid weather,” I responded in my un-casual voice.

We spent the two following nights in a little park in the quaint little town of Bellville, Texas. We wouldn’t have found this town if our friends hadn’t moved there. I soon learned that part of the fun of traveling across the USA is meeting up with family, friends, and finding new friends along the way. Not so fun is when the air conditioner keeps turning off in 95+ degree heat.

All too soon we had to hit the road to Wimberley … the town that was hit so hard by torrential rain and a raging river that overflowed into houses of all sizes, and a house that was torn from its footings and floated a mother and her son down the river to their death. This was the town where we’d be working with Christ In Action (CIA) to bring hope to America’s families.

We arrived late afternoon at the church in Wimberley where CIA’s Camp Hope had been set up. Portable showers, toilets, kitchen, heavy-duty equipment, and other necessities needed for the job at hand. Most of the volunteers slept in the church fellowship hall and Sunday school rooms. There were three motor homes … two beautiful 40-foot motor homes with slide-outs … and our ‘vintage shabby chic’ home-on-wheels. Small, but it had everything we needed, except an air conditioner that kept going ka-putz on us! Plus, we were boon-docking (dry-dock aka no electric or water hook-ups) next to a large green field where deer came out early every morning to graze in peace.

Days of hard work toiling outside in the hot sun, removing fallen trees off houses, piling debris, wet furniture, and destroyed belongings onto the side of the road for the trash trucks to eventually drive by to pick up load after load.

I wondered why I had so much energy to work in these hard conditions. My left knee had been in so much pain for months that I could hardly walk, until I met with a surgeon the previous month. Rob reminded me, “It’s those meds the doctor gave you, remember?” Oh, yeah, I forgot.

At the end of each day I headed straight for our tiny shower before the dinner bell rang. Stepping into our RV was like entering an oven. Why wasn’t the air conditioner working? I asked Rob. “I’m workin’ on it,” he stated matter-of-factly.

Dinner time was special, especially since I didn’t have to cook. The volunteer cooks planned every meal and served the volunteers with smiles and encouraging words. Everyone was tired (no, exhausted) but they shared their experiences of how the people we were helping expressed their eternal gratitude. That is where our energy came from. The chance to help in any way, large or small, those in need. And there were many in dire need.

Then came the night of heavy all-night rains. I love listening to the raindrops falling on the RV’s metal roof. However, this night I woke up to a wet bed, mattress and all. Rob discovered that the window above my twin bed was leaking! He temporarily taped it until we could repair it. We took my mattress and the bedding outside to dry in the welcomed sunshine.

It was on our way home when we stayed at a lovely RV camp on a Louisiana lake that we discovered the problem with the air conditioner. The RV park happened to have an RV serviceman on site. “You need new batteries,” he said with a smile.

We learned a lot on this first trip. First, we love RVing! We love to travel. We love volunteering to help those in need.

An 86-year-old widower lives next door to our condo on the lake where we recently moved. He needs our assistance carrying his groceries, watering his plants, and just sharing a few encouraging words.

Near or far, we can look around and find someone who needs our assistance. No matter what age, retired or preparing for retirement, we are never too old to lend a helping hand.