The luck of the draw

Toddler sitting on sidewalk with little puppy kissing his face

I love my PALS visits with Jelly. I get to go to new places and meet new people and watch them adore my dog. Of course I love to tell them funny stories about her, but I don’t go on and on about her because it’s not all about us, especially during these visits. I have to find other topics of conversation instead.

I’ve long accepted that I’m terrible at small talk. Getting-to-know-you conversations are hard for me in general. I was particularly stumped at a PALS outing last week.

We had volunteered to visit a special nursing home. The residents there are hard-to-place older folks who would not otherwise be accepted into seniors’ homes. Many are alcoholic and/or mentally ill, and many once lived on the street. The alcoholic residents are given controlled amounts of alcohol at regular intervals. Without access to alcohol, these people would likely continue to live in poverty on the streets. The residence’s goals are to reduce these people’s run ins with the police and their need for emergency health care.

I’ve been in many seniors’ homes with Jelly and this one was more run down than others I’ve seen. (Imagine the challenges gathering funding for a place like this.) So were the people there, many of whom were socializing in the common area when we arrived. Still, this special residence gives them a roof over their heads and three meals a day, access to laundry facilities, and on-site medical care. There are significant daily supports in place, so they don’t need to be trying to survive on the streets anymore.

I didn’t know what brought these folks to this residence and my asking them would have been inappropriate. Of course I wondered about their pasts, though. Sometimes their mental-health issues were apparent, but others simply appeared poor and downtrodden. I hope my discomfort wasn’t obvious, but I felt even more awkward than usual finding common ground for conversation.

I often fall back on one strategy when I have no idea what to say. On all our PALS outings, people can choose to visit with the dogs or not, so those that do attend are clearly dog lovers (or cat lovers who are willing to accept second best). Their interest in animals gives me an easy inroad: I ask them about their experiences with dogs. That breaks the ice, probably for me more than for them. People love to talk about their dogs–I can relate to that–even if they may be sad recalling better times in their lives.

On this visit, our dog conversations reminded me that our lives may not have been all that different at one point. These people weren’t born mentally ill, although they likely were harbouring bad genes that would reveal themselves later. They likely lived with family when they were younger, just like I did. But at some point, poverty or mental illness or addiction derailed their lives. I expect they’ve had bad luck, while somehow I did not. Life is truly unfair.

I’m glad this special residence can provide these folks a home. Everyone deserves at least that, no matter what.

The problem with dogs with balls

Terrier with tennis ball in its mouthJelly and I have been heading to the off-leash dog park most mornings. Whenever we go, I am struck by the number of people who are fixated by a tennis ball. Their dogs are excited to be at the park not to see their compatriots but to chase that ball relentlessly, drop it at their owner’s foot, only to chase it again. These dogs live to fetch.

Bassets and fetching? Not so much. If I threw a rabbit, they’d run after it. Bunny chasing is in their blood. Ball chasing? Forget it. Jelly has learned to ignore dogs with balls because she knows they will not be interested in playing with her.

I’m getting off track. It’s dogs with the other kind of balls, the kind attached to their bodies, that pose the problem. Jelly can spot those dogs a mile off. She doesn’t run much at the park anymore, except when she sniffs out an unneutered male. Then she’s emits a whimpering cry unlike no other and chases relentlessly after that dog until I manage to snag her, leash her, and take her away.

I no longer ask the owners, “Does your dog have balls?” I can tell by Jelly’s squeals and rapt attention that the dog does indeed, whether or not his wares are on display.

I often tell the owner that Jelly is very fond of intact males, which begs their question, “Is Jelly spayed?” What do you think? We adopted Jelly from doggie jail. Dogs don’t get released from jail until their reproductive parts are removed, thereby ensuring they do not add to the unwanted-dog population. “Yes, Jelly is fixed,” I respond, “although I’m not whether Dr. Animal finished the job.”

I say this because recently I learned that when girl dogs are spayed, only part of their parts are removed, ensuring that they cannot reproduce. But other parts remain, leading dogs like Jelly to be tormented by their desires for the rest of their lives. No wonder girl dogs, spayed or not, just want to have fun.

When these incidents occur, I bite my tongue rather than telling those ballsy owners, “Why must you bring your unneutered dog to an off-leash park?” (Jelly is not the only dog tormented by dogs with balls. Balls breed fights, and puppies, although any owner who brings an intact female to the park deserves a very large litter of puppies 58 to 68 days later.)

After an incident like this, we head to the balls-free zone of the park, where Jelly can frolic in peace. Those other balls may fly overhead, begging to be fetched, but Jelly ignores them.

During this week’s PALS visit at the retirement residence, Jelly and I crossed paths with a visitor who had brought along her dog with balls. No, I couldn’t see them, and they weren’t neon yellow, but Jelly quickly became entranced. Everyone nearby was tickled by Jelly’s relentless interest in this dog. I immediately pulled Jelly away from this dog before her squealing escalated to howling in the echoey hallway.

Jelly may be a doggie senior, but some days she acts more like a teenager with a crush. They say hormones can rage at any age. If you don’t believe me, join us at the park one day.

 

Volunteering by proxy

Calgary Stampede midway crowded with people

That’s me in the top right corner.

I must apologize for not writing yesterday, especially since I know how you hang on my every word. I spent the day carousing at the Stampede grounds. Just kidding. I’d rather sleep than watch adults young and old embarrassing themselves in public.

Stampede is a time for reckless alcohol overconsumption. With that comes an increase in philandering, and of course, STIs and unwanted pregnancies, despite the local campaign to “put a condom on your cowboy.” Not surprisingly, divorces spike following the week-long party. Stampeding sounds too risky to me, so I hunker down at home instead.

J., on the other hand, plans two visits to the grounds with our good friend, Triple D. They will be there from supper time until midnight both nights, but they won’t have time for drinking or philandering; they’ll be selling lottery tickets for fancy cars. They are volunteering for this task in support of PALS. J. noticed that PALS was seeking people for this fundraising event, and not only did she volunteer for two long shifts, she signed up Triple D, who is known for always making time for a good deed.

When I became a PAL, I learned that, in addition to our regularly scheduled visits, I’d be expected to support the organization in other ways. This included, for example, interviewing new recruits, helping out on the multi-station dog-assessment day, or attending fundraising events with or without my little pal in tow.

Most of these activities involve longer hours than I have the stamina for, so I pass. I do my part by volunteering for one-time visits–last week’s parade is a recent example, although that day felt more like a gift than an obligation–on top of our regularly scheduled visits with the old folks.

The same is true for Calgary Blood Services. I can’t donate blood, so I feed soup and cookies to those who can, and try to encourage healthy others to donate in my stead. I’m grateful to J. for persisting in giving despite her fainting after her second blood donation, and to my dear friend known affectionately as Spongebob (for reasons that will remain a mystery to you) who donated for the first time last month with no ill effects. Anticipating the milkshake he’d be buying on his way home probably helped him through the itty bitty pin prick.

Maybe I shouldn’t say that I pass on the volunteer duties I can’t fulfill since the truth is that I pass them on to gracious and willing others wherever I can. I wish I could volunteer myself, but I know my limits. A 6-hour sales shift ending at midnight–assuming I did not sleep through the chaos like Jelly did at that parade–would knock me out for days. I also know that the screening interviewers at Canadian Blood Services would laugh at me if I tried to donate blood despite my leukemia. I know what my limits are, and that there are some things I can’t do, however much I wish I could.

Kudos to those folks, J. et al., who donate their time or their gift of life (blood, that is) in my stead. Their generosity makes my heart sing, and I’m not the heart-singing type.

Pride comes nowhere near the fall

Woman who has fallen off bike, bike lays on ground

If a woman stops eating in the forest, will anybody notice her pants falling off? Does it matter?

I am here to confirm what the research has been saying for years: your stair master is lying to you. Weight loss is about eating less, not exercising more. Trust me, I know. But keep exercising because it’s good for you in so many other ways.

Many moons ago, I was dating an avid cyclist. I made the mistake of trying out one of those fancy road bikes with the skinny wheels at the prohibitively expensive cycling store. Of course this bike had fancy clip-on pedals, so I sported an ill-fitting pair of those absurd looking clip-on shoes for my trial ride down the block. Needless to say, I did not make it far before I teetered over and, unable to unclip my shoes, fell to the ground. It was not pretty. No bikes were purchased that day.

Things haven’t changed all that much over the years. I no longer need the fancy bike or the clip-on shoes to fall to the ground, however. On Wednesday, for example, I took Jelly out for her morning constitutional. As we returned to the house, I failed to properly negotiate the small rise from our lawn to the driveway, a rise that has been there since the cement was poured 15 years ago. Somehow I found myself flat on my face, with skinned hands and knees and badly mangled glasses. Surprisingly, my recent weight loss did not seem to lighten my fall.

Thankfully my trusty therapy dog was at my side, as she often is when I fall, since I do most of my walking with her. She sighed, “Oh mom, not again.”

Jelly has has been PALSing around for 6 months now. She has visited retirement homes, hospice patients, university students, and a variety of special-needs populations. She has offered wags and kisses far and wide. People marvel at how calm she is in even the most chaotic of settings.*

She had an especially successful visit with a hoard of high-needs preschoolers. Somehow, in the midst of all the activity, she napped. One of the children saw Jelly sleeping, and observed, “She looks dead.” He repeated this statement several times. I was ineffective at disabusing him of this notion. I even placed his hand on Jelly’s belly so he could feel her breathing, to no avail. At least he wasn’t upset about Jelly’s apparent demise.

When she has her little PALS outfit on, Jelly is an equal-opportunity love sponge. She will take affection from anyone who will give it. I wouldn’t say she’s one of those miracle dogs who is drawn to the person who needs the comfort the most, but I may need to reconsider in light of my mishap.

After my fall, Jelly immediately rushed to my side, started kissing my face, and then waited patiently until I got up. I collected myself and arose slowly. Other than a few bruises, I’m absolutely fine. J., on the other hand, believes, for good reason, I am unsafe to venture out so I’ve been grounded.

Happy Canada Day! And be safe.

 

*I too marvel at how calm Jelly is in these special settings, since she’s often utterly frenetic at home. Remember the dining room table incident?

 

How to be a bad mother in one easy step

Basset with hot water bottle on head and covered in blanket

Remember how hesitant I was to start volunteering because I feared my precarious health would make me unreliable? I had visions of calling in sick on a regular basis, but I should have known better. I am a reliable person. If I say I’m going to do something, I do it. I don’t cancel any commitment unless I’m strapped to a hospital bed.

I am pleased to report that, several months in, my health has not affected my volunteering. I’ve had to cancel only one date because of illness, and legitimately so: I didn’t want to risk sharing an infection with an unsuspecting blood donor.

I’ve been feeling under the weather the past few days–am I still allowed to say that if I’m in remission?–but I had a PALS visit with Jelly scheduled yesterday. Of course we’d still go. I’m not contagious, I’m just not feeling 100%. What does the U.S. Postal Service say? “Through gout, fatigue, anemia, and fluid retention….” (That doesn’t sound quite right.)

It never occurred to me that one day Jelly might have to bow out.

Upon awakening at 7 a.m., I realized that Jelly had slept late. (She’s up with the birds, remember?) Most mornings I send her back to bed once or twice before we all get up. She didn’t wake us? t naively believed Jelly had finally overcome her early-morning awakening.

Then J. gave her breakfast, and I realized how wrong I was. When our dog is disinterested in food, we know she’s unwell.

Normally Jelly eats in record time. Those dogs who pick at their food all day? Jelly ain’t one of them. In fact, she has a special dog bowl that slows down her eating. Before she had her special bowl, she’d inhale her kibble so quickly that, soon after she finished, she’d leave her breakfast, each little kibble intact, all over the kitchen floor. (I’ll let your imagination fill in the blanks here.)

So J. and I both tried to recall what Jelly had scrounged in the backyard the day before, other than kale. There was the occasional blade of grass, and a quick nibble on some grass patching that J. had spread. For whatever reason, Jelly has always loved grass (no, I don’t mean marijuana) in any form. Could her gardening have caused her stomach upset?

Sadly, despite our stellar attendance record with PALS, Jelly had to pass on yesterday’s visit. I emailed the organizer early yesterday morning to apologize for the late cancellation. What I neglected to tell her is that a lawn is currently taking root in Jelly’s stomach, causing her some discomfort, and that if she’d only vomit, she’d feel a lot better. Some things are better left unsaid.

If only I could end this post here.

I am a terrible mother, joking about my sick one. While I was busy minimizing Jelly’s tummy ache, J. determined Jelly needed to see Dr. Animal. Turns out our pup has an infection, hence the fever, lack of appetite, and lethargy. She has shown some improvement today, thank goodness, as evidenced by a few fleeting tail wags.

Hopefully Jelly will forgive me someday for neglecting her care. If not, I’ll find her a good therapist, one who will let her up on the couch.

Increasing my blog’s readership, one visitor at a time

It was a record week with two real live clients. For whatever reason, my second client found the session helpful and decided to rebook. At this rate, I may actually have a bit of income to declare at year end. Do you think her rebooking had anything to do with the despairing look on my face as the session neared its end? Or my begging? I thought so too.

I commended this client for making contact since we hadn’t seen each other for some time. I can’t imagine calling my therapist not knowing if she’d died since we’d last met. Kudos to her for taking the risk. I believe she could see, once she arrived, that my death is not imminent, or at least doesn’t seem to be so.

On a much triter note, I’d love my writing to find a larger audience. All writers would, wouldn’t they? Sometimes my narcissistic side wonders why my blog hasn’t garnered more attention over time. Is it my abrasively opinionated stance? My biting humour? How about my many random syntax errors? You’re probably wondering whether I’ll ever learn to stop my participles from dangling.

Despite my ongoing efforts to keep you entertained–“Enough already,” you say, “I wouldn’t have committed to this blog if I knew we’d be forging a long-term relationship”–I haven’t yet garnered any publishing contracts, I’ve had no requests for guest articles in esteemed newspapers, no talk-show appearances, not even any invitations to relocate to L.A. Perhaps my fame will follow my death, just like that of Bach or van Gogh.

It would probably help if I used social media to broaden my reading audience, but, because I don’t live with a teenager, I’m at a loss. I’ve taken a more primitive approach to expanding readership instead: I awkwardly tell people about the blog and ask them to take a look.

Sadness doll

Can you see the resemblance?

Take, for example, Mr. Platelet at the Calgary Blood Services clinic, the regular platelet donor who likened me to Little Miss Sunshine a few weeks back rather than my soulmate, Sadness, from Inside Out. You know Sadness, who’s forever trying to bring Joy down. (As a side note, notwithstanding the pale blue facial tone, I bear a striking resemblance to Sadness, even when I’m happy. The higher-than-average BMI, the frumpy sweater, the glasses, and the eyes that are always wide open. Hey, maybe that’s why Sadness is always sad. She’s tired all the time!)

I caught up with Mr. Platelet–would “Little Mr. Sunshine” be a better moniker?–this past Monday when I was volunteering and, while he was quietly eating his soup, I told him how touched I was by his kind words last time he was in. And then I clumsily directed him to the recent blog post where he’d played a starring role. In yet another act of kindness, he gamely read the post while consuming his soup. And just like that, I increased my readership that day. Poor fellow probably didn’t know what hit him. Even my clients would say I’ve never been known for my delicate touch.

No wonder my blog readership is increasing at a snail’s pace. Should I reconsider the social media approach? It’s less intrusive. Now I just need a teenager….

Social media icons (twitter, Pinterest, youtube

In certain circles, I’m known as Little Miss Sunshine

Stuffed toy of Little Miss Sunshine

If you think Sadness and Fear are my constant companions, I beg to differ. Sure, I’ve been a little off kilter lately due to my gouty complications, my unrelenting fatigue, and my difficulty handling doctor change, but the rest of the time, Joy prevails.

If you know me only by what I write, you may envision my holding back tears all the time. You may even wonder how I ever managed to become a psychologist. Before you write my provincial regulatory body to rescind my license lest I harm the public, I beg you to hear me out.

Despite your negative preconceptions, under the right conditions I am an unimaginable bundle of joy. I bring light and life to those around me. People can’t help but smile when I enter a room, and not only because my fly is undone.

To demonstrate my point, I’d like to share a story from earlier this week, before I became unduly distracted–and distressed, I might add, in case you didn’t pick that up–by the Trauma of the Changing of the Doctors. My moment of unbridled happiness took place on Monday afternoon while I was volunteering at Canadian Blood Services.

I’ve been on the Monday shift since I started volunteering at the clinic last September. It turns out that donors often set their appointments on the same day of the week, and that over the months I’ve become familiar with many Monday donors. I haven’t yet gotten to the point where I can anticipate their soup preferences or cookie choices, but I do see them on a fairly regular basis.

Earlier in the shift, I was feeling somewhat verklempt because I had met a donor who was profoundly hearing impaired. I did not realize her impairment until I noticed her reading my lips and heard an unusual lilt in her voice. Her hearing was impaired, but her blood was not, so in she came to give. The range of people who attend the clinic never ceases to amaze me.

Then Mr. Platelet entered. Mr. Platelet is a lovely fellow who donates frequently. Platelet and plasma donors often attend the clinic more often because they can, and thus we get to know them better. For the first time, Mr. Platelet called me by my name, which is on my little red volunteer vest. We had never chatted before but we spoke briefly as he was leaving. During this conversation, he told me he liked donating during my shifts because I am “all smiles and sunshine”. Not wanting to disabuse him of that notion, I thanked him warmly and told him he was very sweet.

And in truth, I am Little Miss Sunshine at the clinic. I look out upon the donors slurping their soup each week and imagine, “Are you the one who saved my life when I needed blood (or platelets or plasma)?” Thanks for that.

After Mr. Platelet left, I broke the volunteer code of conduct: I neglected the donors while pulling out my phone to text J. I wrote, simply, “I am all smiles and sunshine.” She promptly responded, “I know.” And so, too, should you, dear readers, in case you sometimes forget. I’d forget too if I were you.

Raising my business from the grave

My new life, Chapter 1, typed on paper in a typewriter

Last summer, I realized that: 1) I probably wasn’t going to die anytime soon; 2) not only was my death not imminent, my health was fairly stable; and, 3) I was getting bored of twiddling my thumbs. Those factors led me to seek out volunteering opportunities. To my surprise and delight, I was accepted to volunteer despite my leukemia. Today I enjoy my volunteer assignments with both Canadian Blood Services and PALS (thanks to my PAL Jelly, who is remarkably well behaved in unfamiliar settings).

I convinced myself that, if I started volunteering, I might not miss working so much. My love for volunteering has not lessened my desire to work as a psychologist. To clarify, I don’t miss making money, I miss helping people.

I’ve had only one client visit my office so far this year. My client base has trickled to a standstill for two reasons that I can think of: those who know I have leukemia must think I’m dead by now, and those who don’t know I’ve been sick will have trouble locating me on the internet. Or at least I’m assuming they will; I’ve never Googled myself to find out.

What’s the first thing you do when you receive the potential name of a professional for hire, whether it’s a plumber or a financial advisor or a psychologist? You do an internet search, and decide whether you’re willing to give that person a try based on what you can find out. (I guess I shouldn’t speak for you, but I know that’s what I do.) If the professional doesn’t have a website, you may form your opinion based on her marathon time, or her snarky letter to editor of the local newspaper, or her involvement in this or that charity, or whatever else the internet chooses to share with you.

Many psychologists were slow to jump on the social-media bandwagon, perhaps because of the strict rules that govern how we advertise ourselves. We need to honestly represent our credentials–I can’t say I’m a Rhodes scholar if I’m not–and we can’t include any client testimonials. That means no quotes from former clients on how much I helped them through difficult times. Furthermore, when psychologists advertise or use social media in other ways, we must not breech client confidentiality. For example, we cannot befriend our clients on Facebook.

Despite these social-media constraints, more and more psychologists have been creating snazzy, engaging websites in recent years. In order to keep up with the Freuds (bad analogy since Freud was a psychiatrist but let it go, okay?), I too may have to create a website for my practice. Then when people search online for my obituary, they may instead find that, not only am I still alive, I’m open for business.

Once I have my website up and running, I’ll have to figure out how to solicit potential clients. Our ethical guidelines forbid ambulance chasing, which is overly constraining, don’t you think? What’s wrong with showing up at funerals and encouraging people to seek my help? I don’t need any client testimonials to assure you that I’m an excellent grief therapist. Someone has got to help the bereaved, and it might as well be me.

Engaging with the not-so-disengaged

Jelly with her PALS bandana on standing at PALS visitJelly and I have our PALS routine down pat now. I show her that special blue bandana and she heads to the front door, rather than hiding under the dining room table as she often does before her walks. We head out to the car and she quivers–in fear or excitement? I don’t know–as I pick her up and toss her into the car. And off we head to our assignment.

In addition to our bi-monthly retirement-residence stint, we participate in many one-time visits, going to places that are unfamiliar to us and meeting new people. Wednesday’s visit was was one of these “special visits”, to use PALS’ terminology. We signed up to visit clients at a dementia program in the community. The room was full to overflowing with those with dementia, as well as staff, volunteers, and assorted supportive family members. The program staff had planned their activities around our visit.

The clients weren’t quite ready for us when we arrived, so we were directed to a couch to wait. Since waiting isn’t Jelly’s forté, she immediately started whining. If I understood her correctly, she was saying, “We’ve come all this way and I’m not the centre of attention? Why is no one petting me? I’m bored.”

Jelly’s vocalization was quite the ice breaker. Upon hearing her cries, people could not help but turn her way and smile. The group seemed eager to finish what they were doing so they could meet the disruptive little imp.

As clients started wandering over, the whining stopped, thank God. In no time, Jelly was in her glory, surrounded by the many doting dog people in that little room. Jelly pranced around, visiting with anyone who wanted to meet her. Some petted her head while others graciously took her rump. Some people bent down low enough for kisses (not from me, I have boundaries, remember?). She didn’t mind when clients asked what her name was, even if they’d asked a few minutes prior. She was my model of patience, acceptance, and inclusion.

Everyone actively participated in the visit except for one fellow, who was seated apart from the others at a table in the dining area. (We were asked to avoid this area because lunch was being laid out on the tables.) This fellow had paper on the table in front of him and a pencil to draw. I was informed he was the artist in the group. He loved to draw.

Unbeknownst to me, a staff member had taken a photograph of Jelly. While the rest of us were visiting, this fellow was using the photo and glances our way to draw a picture of Jelly. Had no one informed me, I would not have realized he was participating in the visit in his own way. Prior to our departure, a staff member told me about the drawing and shared her photos with me. I see quite a likeness, right down to Jelly’s little white socks.

Sketch of Jelly at PALS visit

As you go through your day today, remember that you too may touch that proverbial fellow in the corner. That one person in the room who seems disinterested and disengaged may show you he’s not, but in his own way. Make sure you don’t miss it. I almost did.

Am I heartless to the homeless?

Hand with ladle putting soup in bowl two hands are holding

I went into volunteering with my eyes wide open, yet I hadn’t considered the ethical quandaries I might face in my positions. On Monday at Canadian Blood Services, I was tested. As I share this story, I expect some of you may disagree with my thought process or my actions. If so, I trust you will tell me.

I’d been hoping that my International Happiness Day would not include Sadness, and it didn’t until I was almost finished my Canadian Blood Services shift. Then, a homeless person wandered in the clinic back door, by our little free restaurant. (I assumed homelessness based on her dishevelled appearance and soiled clothing.) She walked toward the nursing station and was greeted by the head nurse.

Then she returned to the restaurant with snacks the nurse had given her, stopping to request a bowl of soup. She sat down only briefly before asking me to put the remainder in a cup to go. I refused. Because the soup is hot, no one leaves the clinic with it.

The woman was angry with me for saying no, and after trying to coerce me into changing my mind, she returned to her table to finish eating. I trust she was genuinely hungry, and I knew she had cookies and juice for the road as well. I had to leave while she was still eating, so I don’t know how the story ended.

You may wonder, based on this incident, whether I care about homeless people and I can assure you I do. I know that mental illness and addiction plague the homeless community, and that those who do not suffer these ills are on the streets because of other unfortunate circumstances such as unemployment or relationship breakdown. Homelessness is a serious problem in Calgary as in any major metropolis.

I treat homeless people respectfully because they are human beings in unfortunate situations. But if I see a person begging on the street, I do not give money because I don’t think my buck or two helps. I also know there are social-service agencies offering food and lodging to people in need. I believe that donating to these agencies addresses homelessness more effectively than giving randomly to individuals.

I normally lavish praise and food on everyone who comes to the clinic. Some have been deemed unable to donate while others are there in support of a friend or loved one. This woman did not come in to donate, and the resources are not designated for her. It’s as simple as that, but it’s never simple. It’s just a bowl of soup, but it’s not.

What if she returns regularly in search of a free meal? Say she brings a group of her friends with her next time. What then? By meeting her immediate needs that day, am I potentially creating a problem down the road?

Thankfully, the head nurse witnessed our interchange and came over to lend a hand. She kindly supported me for how I had handled myself. She also provided some guidelines were I to run into a similar situation again.

Was I really thinking I could park my ethics at the volunteer door? Not possible. But some of these situations are harder to handle than others. What would you have done?