It is quite possible that I have social phobia or social anxiety disorder. On the other hand, maybe I am shy in a way that is completely normal. Either way, the difficulty I have being around people gets in the way of my enjoyment and happiness. Many days I don’t step foot outside of the house, even to get the mail. I just let my roommate get it when she comes home. I sometimes walk to the grocery store or the pharmacy where I get my meds (I don’t drive). I smile and say hello if someone speaks to me, but I am terrified that they might want to converse, so I leave as soon as possible. I don’t look over my grocery bill because if there is a wrong price I will have to take the item back. I would never ask a store worker where to find something, and I get embarrassed when they say, “Can I help you find something?”
You get the picture.
All of this would be fine if my intention was to be a hermit. But that is not my intention at all. I want to have friends and acquaintances, to feel comfortable talking to at least one or two people about my real feelings, to know people that I can help and who, in turn, will help me as well. I want a greater sense of connectedness and reciprocity. After all, I don’t even really know my neighbors!
For many years there has been nothing I wanted badly enough to make me confront my fears of other people. I made small, fruitless effects in that direction, but they never stuck. Now I think I have found a goal which will push me where I want to go. [drum roll…..]
There is an organization called Project Vote Smart that gathers and fact-checks information about politicians. Every piece of information is checked, rechecked, and rechecked again. Members of the public can contact PVS to learn more about candidates in their local, state, and national races. I think this is such a great idea that I immediately joined the group when I found out about it.
Members have the opportunity to do 2-week volunteer internships at the organization’s headquarters in Montana. The member is responsible for his/her own transportation and must pay a reasonable amount for meals, but the lodging is free. There are many tasks volunteers do — answering phones and emails, gathering data and entering it into the database, calling the offices of politicians and candidates, and more. I feel certain there will be a job I’ll do well.
The only problem is that I will be there for two weeks without ANYONE I know. Five years ago this would be unthinkable. Now I believe it is quite possible — but only with preparation, and only with God’s blessing and strength.