I spent the last two nights volunteering for the Vancouver International Wine Festival. I’m a big wine lover, and while I hadn’t attended the festival in years, I’d often thought about volunteering.
The main incentive? As an English major, I wish I could say that my prime motivation was the worthy cause—the event’s now a fundraiser for Bard on the Beach. But no. The main incentive for me was a free ticket to the International Festival Tasting, worth $95!
As a first-time volunteer, I didn’t know what to expect, but I suspected that it wouldn’t be glamorous. My suspicions were confirmed upon check-in when I was instructed to grab an apron and a pair of rubber gloves. During my following 5-hour shifts, my duties included refilling water jugs (easy peasy) and emptying the cardboard spit buckets at each of the wineries’ tables, which I didn’t find quite as easy.
In the workplace, I pride myself on the fact that I don’t consider (m)any tasks beneath me. Yes, I have a master’s degree and years of management experience. So what? That doesn’t make me any better or smarter than the receptionist at the front desk or the clerk on the retail floor. I’m usually willing to help out with any task if needed.
So putting on rubber gloves and emptying countless buckets of people’s spit and discarded wine shouldn’t have been a big deal. And, for the most part, it wasn’t. But there was still a part of me that felt oddly embarrassed, part of me that wanted to be among the glamorous revellers and not the invisible server.
One guest said to my teammate, “Wow, I hope they pay you a lot to do that job.” If only he’d known we were actually volunteering to do it!
Beyond fellow volunteers, there were a small handful of people who said thank you. Winery principals who noticed. A spattering of guests who clapped for our tired crew as we left the floor en masse. It felt good to be recognized; to remember that no job is too menial or too small and that no one deserves to feel invisible or taken for granted.
So tomorrow night, I’m looking forward to cashing in on my free ticket. I’m looking forward to sampling some of the world’s best wines, being out with friends and wearing something I feel good in. I’m going to remember not to take myself too seriously. Most important, I’m going to remember to say thanks.