Volunteers Begin at Home (Post 93)
Volunteers Begin at Home (2003), is part of an educational reading scheme series about Australian places and events. This one is based on Clean Up Australia Day with a nod to Meals on Wheels and WIRES and a few other volunteer organisations. The actual story-line is based, not on real events, but on my philosophy which I may have mentioned once or twice to my own kids way back when.
I've quite often thought it bizarre that we have a special day to clear up public areas when the surely the answer is not to mess up these areas in the first place. If you trace the litter that is picked up, most of it appears to be packaging... often for things that are unnecessary. Polystyrene take-away packaging? Check. China dinner plate on which vegetables were served? Not Present. Have a look at the next litter you see... did this packaging ever contain something you need for good health? You might see a strawberry punnet but it's much more likely to be a chip packet.
The other point that puzzles me is more personal. I'm messy and untidy by nature. My parents and society suggested this is not a good way to be, but all the reasons and education I received failed to make me tidy. At the same time, my parents and society told me littering was a bad thing to do, and so I never intentionally litter. I don't throw down plastic, or polystyrene, or drink cans or wrappers and I never have. Why did one piece of conditioning work almost perfectly and the other not at all? I have never found a satisfactory answer.
To get back to the story of Volunteers Begin at Home, Troy and Alice belong to a family of society-conscious volunteers. Their parents, elder sister and grandmother are all volunteers. Alice and Troy want to help... but Dad won't take them on animal rescue and Mum won't let them help Gran with Meals on Wheels. Instead, they try to divert the kids into tidying their rooms.
This, the children agree, is unfair. When Clean Up Australia Day is announced, they think their chance has come. No one can say they're too young for this! Excitedly, they plan for the big day, for the community fun and sausage sizzles. They are not happy when Mum and Dad say Maybe and again try to divert them to tidying their rooms. As Mum points out, their own house is part of Australia! They are to spend Clean Up Australia Day cleaning up this small and personal part of the country.
Naturally, Alice and Troy find a solution that works for everyone and come to the conclusion that, like charity, volunteering can begin at home.
Fourteen years on from writing this book I still think it makes a valid point for young readers. Fourteen years on, I still have no idea why my childhood conditioning took so well in one area and not at all in the other. Maybe it's easier not to do something than it is to do it?
About the Blog
Sally is Sally Odgers; author, manuscript assessor, editor, anthologist and reader. She runs http://www.affordablemanuscriptassessments.com and Prints Charming Books. (Sally is me, by the way, and I am lots of other things too, but these are the relevant ones for now.)
The goal for 2017 is to write a post a day profiling the background behind one of my books; how it came to be written, what it's about, and any things of note that happened along the way. If you're an author, an aspiring author, a reader or just someone who enjoys windows into worlds, you might find this fun. The books are not in any special order, but will be assigned approximate dates, and pictures, where they exist. If you enjoyed a post, or want to ask about any of my books or my manuscript assessment service, post a comment and I'll get back to you.