Oak Tree Corner. Oak Tree Corner is housed in a yellow Cape Cod, situated on a busy corner in Oakwood, the yard full of happy little trees and bright flowers. There’s a sign on the side that reads, “a place for grieving children.” This is my sixth year of volunteering there.
Oak Tree Corner was founded
in 1996 as a place for grieving children and families to find some sort
of comfort. Volunteers, or group facilitators, gather twice a month and
lead groups of children in activities designed to facilitate discussion
about their grief. I work with the youngest group, the Littles, usually
aged 4-6, though there are also two other groups, the Middles and Teens. The
parents meet in a separate group, led by another volunteer. All volunteers go through an extensive and, at
times, emotionally exhausting training before leading these groups.
new volunteers start at Oak Tree Corner, they just observe on their
first night. It can be overwhelming. Sure, there’s the training, but
there’s always some anxiety, especially just starting out, when faced
with a group of grieving children. “Will I say the wrong thing?”
(Probably not, especially if you let the kids do most of the talking,
which is what you’re supposed to do anyway.) “What if someone cries?”
(Surprisingly, this hardly ever happens.) “I can’t do
this.” (Yes. You can.)
After group, the volunteers gather to
share their experiences from the night. On nights when we have new
volunteers, the old volunteers take turns sharing why they decided to
volunteer with Oak Tree Corner. I always say some variation of the same
thing. I heard about Oak Tree Corner from a co-worker. I’d been looking
for a place to volunteer where I wouldn’t be relegated to answering
phones or stuffing envelopes, ideally working kids, and this seemed
perfect. I was a bit nervous that I would be dealing with children in
the midst of the grieving process, but it’s been life changing. It
As I drove by Oak Tree Corner yesterday, I really
thought about my answer to that question. How rote it’s become and how
it’s the real answer, sure, but, since I’m emotionally closed-off
with near strangers, it’s not the real real answer. It’s not the
cheesy, gooey-center-of-my-heart answer.
I like my job but, most
days, I don’t usually feel like I’m really making the world a better
place. On the best days, I get to offer someone a job. That’s a good
feeling. But, for the most part, I’m not changing lives.
some asshole blew up the Boston Marathon. I, like most people, followed
along in horror, on Twitter, on Facebook, on the everlasting suck-cycle that
is our news media, my stomach sinking as each new piece of information
came in. Yet, in the aftermath of this terror, Patton Oswalt posted the following on Facebook:
Boston. Fucking horrible.
I remember, when 9/11 went down, my reaction was, "Well, I've had it with humanity."
I was wrong. I don't know what's going to be revealed to be behind all
of this mayhem. One human insect or a poisonous mass of broken
But here's what I DO know. If it's one person or a
HUNDRED people, that number is not even a fraction of a fraction of a
fraction of a percent of the population on this planet. You watch the
videos of the carnage and there are people running TOWARDS the
destruction to help out. (Thanks FAKE Gallery founder and owner Paul
Kozlowski for pointing this out to me). This is a giant planet and we're
lucky to live on it but there are prices and penalties incurred for the
daily miracle of existence. One of them is, every once in awhile, the
wiring of a tiny sliver of the species gets snarled and they're pointed
But the vast majority stands against that
darkness and, like white blood cells attacking a virus, they dilute and
weaken and eventually wash away the evil doers and, more importantly,
the damage they wreak. This is beyond religion or creed or nation. We
would not be here if humanity were inherently evil. We'd have eaten
ourselves alive long ago.
So when you spot violence, or bigotry,
or intolerance or fear or just garden-variety misogyny, hatred or
ignorance, just look it in the eye and think, "The good outnumber you,
and we always will."
And I thought...THAT is why I
volunteer. I want to be a part of Oswalt’s vast majority. I want to make
the world a better place, in my own tiny way, even if it’s only by
volunteering two days a month. It’s often difficult to measure our
successes at Oak Tree Corner. It’ll most likely be years or, you know,
NEVER before we know if anything we say or do benefits the children
we work with. But I have to believe it does. I have to believe in trying to make the world a little brighter, in doing my part to tip the scales to Good. I have to believe that Oak Tree Corner, this small shining light, is really just one of many, a million stars brightening the night sky.