I woke up feeling sluggish this morning and then felt depressed when it was time to go to volunteer at the asylum seeker’s drop-in centre. I felt very anxious and depressed on the way there and unable to read on the bus. Part of me wanted to turn back, and I nearly did leave once I got there, because I felt that I just was not coping or doing what was required of me. I felt that I was not able to distinguish between male and female donated clothes, or children’s and adult’s clothes – not in all cases, but in some cases. I also felt too shy to talk to anyone else. But I stayed. When the asylum seekers came, I helped look after the children, as I usually do. At first I really struggled to do this too; it took about an hour for me to feel relaxed enough to really play with them.
It didn’t help that I’m not always sure exactly what to do, a combination of inexperience with children and the complexity of caring for other people’s children in an environment that requires safeguarding. I never know whether we should tell the children off; one child hit another, I think by accident, but I wasn’t sure if I should tell him to apologise. I probably should (although as he’s pretty non-verbal, I’m not sure it would have done any good). Nor did I know what to do to the hurt child. I felt autisticly unaware of what response he needed. If it was my own child, I suppose I would have realised I should hug him eventually, but I wouldn’t hug anyone else’s child for safeguarding reasons and because I’m often autistically wary of some types of physical contact. Furthermore, several of the toddlers have a habit of running off all the time and it is hard to keep them in the play area. They like to play on the stairs leading up to the stage at the far end of the hall, which worries me, but, again, I never know if I’m allowed to pick them up and carry them away, so I tend to try to coax them back down, although I did repeatedly pick up one toddler who kept trying to leave the hall because it was the only way to stop him getting into trouble.
I did enjoy it in the end, but I really struggle to talk to the other volunteers or to connect with anyone (volunteer or asylum seeker) over the age of about four.
The other thing that upset me at volunteering was realising that, even though the centre is organised by a Modern Orthodox organisation so far as I could tell from clues like how they were dressed (not to mention statistical probabilities), most of the people volunteering were not so frum (religious), whereas my more Charedi (ultra-Orthodox) shul (synagogue) would never organise charitable care for non-Jews. It upsets me that things are so compartmentalised, that it seems impossible for one person or community to have a social conscience and also meticulous care for ritual commandments. It makes me feel that it is no wonder that I struggle to find friends and a wife when there is nowhere in the Jewish community where I feel comfortable and able to be myself.
I had a short time to recover before my sister and brother-in-law came over for dinner. I struggled with this as I was still tired from volunteering, plus the conversation was mainly about my sister and BIL’s house renovations. I don’t know if this doesn’t interest me because I have never owned a house, because of my personality or because of my autism, but whatever the reason, I was not very interested. I tried to look interested for an hour and a half, but I was going to go upstairs when my parents started talking about the autism workshop they went to last week, so I thought I should stay around for that as I wanted to have a conversation with my sister about autism. That was quite long, but useful. It would have been better if the conversations had been the other way around, though, as now I’m exhausted from too much ‘peopling’ and need to unwind before I go to bed, but don’t have much time for Doctor Who as I need an early night as I have work tomorrow and am going to have to talk to a lot of students at the event/exhibition of rare books that we are running. On which note I will have to leave you.