The Red Cross officially has me on their volunteer roster. I’ve signed up, attended my first classes, and signed the little paper. I am a member of the team in charge of visiting victims of house fires. It is likely that these calls will come at extremely awkward times, but I’m willing to be on call because it’s the right thing to do.
However, my motivations are not entirely pure.
Authors thrive on disaster. We eat pain and suffering and spit out drama and tragedy. A good author can consume the souls of people he meets and mash them together to make strange and interesting characters. Authors create, but not from nothing.
Once, long ago, I stopped at a traffic accident only moments after it had occurred. I could have kept driving, but I stopped. The driver of one car had a crushed leg and was in horrible pain. We didn’t know if he was slurring his words because of a head injury or because of the fact that he’d bitten off a big chunk of his tongue. He did, however, try to pass out several times. We were able to keep him awake until the ambulance arrived.
I have absolutely no idea who that guy was, but his suffering has informed my work.
My work at the Red Cross is one more experience in a vast many. Every person I meet expands my world, from volunteers to those who suffer. I will meet these people and by knowing them I’ll be better–a better person and a better writer.
So, it’s selfish, really.
Also, I act partially of greed. Long ago I gave up the purchase of a gaming console in order to give money to the Red Cross. I figured that people without homes probably needed the money more than I needed a PS4. The problem with that logic is that it never is a good thing to buy the PS4. Ever. It’s always a choice between the two and there never is a time when buying something so completely frivolous is the right thing to do.
That is why I decided to volunteer. I bought the PS4 and signed up to give time rather than money.
Yes, I’m aware that I could also give time and money. That’s where the greed comes in. I like my money. I like my stuff. I like my video games.
Time isn’t at such a premium, especially unspecified random 3am time in the way future. I’ve got plenty of that to spare.
Authors need to seek disasters and seek suffering. If they can do that by being part of a system that relieves some of that suffering, then that’s just a bonus.