I was standing in line at the CVS with just the essentials – baby wipes, sunscreen, two “gourmet” lollipops for my three year old, and (don’t judge me) a People Magazine. As the clerk rung me up she spotted the DC Diaper Bank button on my bag and asked about it. I told her what we do and how we had just moved into a warehouse, and the Diaper Drive Mascot proudly added that we “help babies who need diapers.” She asked a few questions about the work, said she’d be interested in volunteering and then said, “I don’t know how you do it every day, that must be depressing to talk to people who can’t even afford diapers.”
It’s a comment I hear frequently in varying forms: someone likes the work we do but thinks that it would be an awful thing to do every day because the need would be overwhelming. And, to be honest, every now and again it is.
I talked to a grandmother yesterday who was calling to get diapers for her 11-day-old granddaughter – the baby’s mom was still in the hospital with serious complications. That same day we got a call from a young mom who was expecting and had just been laid off. Today I received four messages from parents in need of diapers. These calls can be hard – hard because the people on the other line are so grateful that we can help and because they have nowhere else to turn.
But for every call we get asking for help, we get another five offering help. That’s what makes this work the exact opposite of depressing – the last three years I’ve been privy to generosity that makes my heart feel like bursting when I think about it:
– Thousands – literally thousands – of diapers left on my doorstep;
– Hundreds and hundreds of diaper drives;
– Bake sales to raise money;
– Strangers handing me donations after talking to me for two minutes about this work;
– Families coming to our warehouse with their babies strapped in carriers, cups of coffee in hand, saying “what can we do?”
It’s a generosity that pours out and infects everyone around it. This work is about reaching that family who is in need as well as that family who has an overwhelming need to give back, and then connecting the two. It’s an honor to be able to do that.
Several weeks ago I overheard my three-year-old son playing dinosaurs in the living room. He was having his dinosaurs pick up diapers and drop them off for baby dinosaurs who needed them. For all the days that this work is hard and depressing, there are ten times as many days where it is uplifting.