The Rogue Volunteer

St. Paul’s Hospital, located in downtown Vancouver, B.C., recently announced the launch of  “Angels Cradle”,  a program that allows impoverished Moms who are unable to provide for their newborns the opportunity to drop them off at the hospital – for good –  no questions asked.The objective of this program is to negate a sad trend in this city where babies are often abandoned because their mothers are either too overwhelmed, or too poor, to care for them.

I was listening to this story on the radio while driving, and the enormity of it left me feeling so sad. How was it that a program of this nature should be necessary? How could we, as a community, have allowed our lack of social responsibility to amount to such a tragic announcement? I did my best to shake off what I’d just learned – to banish the images the story had conjured in my mind! But all I could think about were those babies. And I pictured the Moms – young, defeated, reduced to sneaking into a cold, antiseptic hospital room to deposit their newborns, only to walk away and never look back. It was all too much. I needed to do something. Our politicians may not care about this city’s most vulnerable citizens, but I darn well did! And then it dawned on me: I resolved that the minute I returned home I would contact the coordinators at St. Paul’s Hospital to see if they needed any volunteers. I was not in a position to adopt a baby, nor could I offer much of a monetary donation, but I could, at the very least, lend my support as a volunteer care-taker on the ward. With this, I perked up considerably. I would help as many of these poor little sweeties as I could by providing all the love and attention each and every one of them deserved. An hour later I was at home, behind my computer, looking up the Volunteer program. And then I whipped off the following email:

“Good afternoon Charlene,

I have just recently learned about St. Paul’s Hospital’s “Angels Cradle” initiative, and was wondering if there might be a need for extra help in comforting babies being dropped off. If so, I would like to volunteer my time. My name is Karin Rego, and I am the mother of two daughters; one 7, the other 17. I am married and I live in West Point Grey – just 15 minutes away from St. Paul’s. If you would like to meet with me I would be most happy to pop over for an interview.”


I sat there waiting, hoping I could, in some very small way, help. It struck me that I would have only a couple of hours in the mornings to devote to Angels Cradle, and I hoped that that would be adequate. And then I started thinking about the possible need for night-shift volunteers, and I decided that should that be a requirement, I would agree to it. Within 20 minutes an email from St. Paul’s Hospital dropped into my inbox. I was elated! Suddenly, my life was about to change for the better, and I was very excited at that prospect. I quickly opened the email, and read:

“Thank you Karin for your email. Sorry, if a baby is dropped off, staff will be caring for the infants. Thank you very much for your interest.”


Uhhh, ya, of course. No biggy – no big deal. I just thought that maybe….but I guess not…right, then. Ok.

Had I really been rejected, sight unseen, by a hospital’s volunteer organization? The answer to that question would be “Yes.” So I quickly re-read the email I’d sent and suddenly came to the dreadful realization that it sounded kind of suspect. Maybe even creepy.

“Dear Charlene, I am a total nut job who’s just learned about the opportunity to shanghai a baby or two whilst dressed as a hospital volunteer…”

Oh God.
Fortunately, I was able to suppress my very next compulsion which was to try to quell any possible suspicions over my mental stability by neither calling Charleen nor by bombarding her with explanatory emails, one after another, each more desperate than the last (because Lord knows I’ve done that more times than I’d like to think about, and it never ends well).

Instead of obsessing over Charlene’s rejection letter, I casually walked over to the nearest light switch and I flicked it on and off 103 times, as fast as I could, while keeping time with my left foot and yodelling like a Swiss Sheep herder. Then, I polished off a fifth of Kirsch, as anyone would. Soon, all previous challenges to the very essence of my being had been successfully decimated.  Nothing to see here, folks. Nothing at all.

I reprised my day, not thinking about anything, and then it dawned on me: “I ought to carry through with this whole volunteering idea. Maybe I should contact my daughter’s elementary school PAC! See if they per chance needed a dedicated volunteer. After all, they’re always in need of love and attention.

Aaaah, forget it, I told myself, I may have a soft heart. But I’m not crazy.

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