With charity for all; or why some lazy tourists should be ashamed

Time is a fungible. We all have it; at least, we all have time for what we really want to do.

We all spend time. We all waste time. Or to put it another way, one person's time waster is another person's way to spend time. And visa versa too.

So given that, why is it that if you want something done, you have to ask a busy person?

The truth in this hackneyed phrase rang like a CTA bus bell pull this past Sunday as I stood at Art Institute of Chicago. Outside of the dark chocolate for the eyes temporary exhibit entitled, Impressionism, Fashion and Modernity, I stood with clipboard and digital recorder in hand. I was on a volunteer mission to interview Chicagoans exiting the exhibit about what they'd just seen. Approaching all of those strangers--the hardest job I know of but one I'm not too shy to do--I'd ask if they had time to speak to me for 5 minutes or so.  No? I'd hear from those who turned me down, well thank you anyway as I sent them on their way.

Thankfully many said yes, often skeptically at first, but even they seemed to ease into enjoying having the rapt attention of another person who truly wanted to know, "what did you think of the exhibit?"

So many people with so many points of view, including things I'd never heard before. Wonderful ideas among them. One of my first interviewees was a lovely family with three children. Beginning my interviews with the children,  the four-year-old opened up to talk about the shoes and how he'd like to feel the dresses. The amused parents hardly had the moment to get a word in, but no mind. Then there was one young woman I approached. Watching me intently, she stopped dead. The gray cells went into hype-drive spinning with thought.

"Yes," she said. "I will gladly talk with you. It will be good karma... I hope," she added smiling. As we chatted she told me that she does this sort of thing in her financially remunerative Monday to Friday work. So she hoped that in helping me, others would help her. I very much believe they will.

As for those who said no, many really didn't have time. Airports were waiting, lunch dates minutes away or children were tired; but then there were those few who truly didn't want to spend the time. Fair enough. Time is limited. And time you've paid for in a museum, most assuredly your time.

For though we all have been dealt a certain amount--for some reason we don't know when our personal time will run out, talk about managing expectations.  But even given brush offs, I thought over and over of a hackneyed saying: if you want something done--ask a busy person.

Why, why is that? Why is it the busy people have the time that others do not? Better organization, more determined triage of the use of their time or what? What is it?

As for busy people, a few came quickly to mind. Above all, Francesca, the hardest working volunteer I've ever known. Not satisfied with just working within charity organizations where she lives in Mexico City, she created a charity umbrella group to organize the various charities to work smarter and better together. Or consider Wilfred. A young man with a full-time job who still finds time to volunteer with charitable organizations after work.

Then there is my dentist (and client given I'm his social media consultant), Dr. Deaver. Despite a busy full-time dental practice, this medical professional  finds the time to do pro bono work weekly, in his spare time.

And last, but certainly not least, is the person with whom I share my life. My husband. Having been a Peace Corps volunteer in his more hirsute days, he now is gives back of his time and almost 40 years of agro-business knowledge by doing volunteer consultant work through groups like the Farmer-to-Farmer program. Guinea seems to be next on his list of passport stamps. This volunteer work, in addition to other work he continues with---both paid and unpaid.

As they said, if you want something done--ask a busy person.

But volunteering unfortunately wasn't in evidence on the CTA bus this past weekend during the Chicago Air & Water Show. En route to the Art Institute on the CTA bus, I was embarrassed by Chicago's proliferation of bad manners. When a woman with a cane got on the bus and looked for a seat, the 10 faces seated in the handicapped area began to study their shoes in order to not make eye contact with her. The fact that the pre-recorded messages and the signs said above saying to give up the seats for handicapped, all pointedly ignored by these healthy tourists.

Atypical of CTA in Chicago in my Monday to Friday experience. You rarely see such bad manners from commuters. Or by those who believe in karma, what comes around, goes around.


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  • Some of those same people you saw refusing to give up their seats to the Air/Water show may have been the same people who occupied the seats Mon-Fri. Character does not take a holiday, and the "tourists" I think you are referring to are the obviously boorish suburbanites who only pollute the city for big crowd events and not to breathe the highly refined air of the Art Institute. This is how this screed disguised as salutation and praise reads.

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    Candace Drimmer

    I was an accidental expatriate; love and marriage led me to it. One day I was a bandy-legged kid sitting atop my dogwood tree looking out of my small backyard world in 1950s New Jersey, wanting to move somewhere--anywhere, different. Next thing I knew my father had accepted a job in Houston TX. I was ecstatic, it was a foreign land in 1961 America. After high school graduation, my parents’ gave me a matched set of fawn-colored hardsided American Tourister luggage. Taking the hint, I went to college; well four colleges in five years--it was the 60s after all. Meeting a young hirsute anti-war, soon-to-be-Peace Corps volunteer, I fell in love. After finishing up college coursework for my degree, but before I even walking a graduation stage, I grabbed the paper airline ticket my boyfriend had sent me, my brand-new passport, and was off to the airport and Lima, Peru.

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