Descriptive Essay

Author | Luci Appelquist


March 15th, 2013

Well, I finally started my volunteer experience. I went to DAP only a few weeks ago and the trip held a strong impression on me. I couldn’t help but notice the lack of laziness as I walked in. In this converted home that smelled like stale wood and the outside draft, like most old Minneapolis homes do, I took a few steps in. Suddenly, a woman’s shoes are padding up the fluffy carpeted stairs, a woman is talking solemnly on the phone; finally another woman notices me and says “Hello!” with a bright and jolly demeanor. They did their best to help me, but I could tell they were busy. It was an ant farm of women with a few men thrown in and they all were running to do a job, setting the pace for the whole visit. I could tell that no time would be wasted.

I only had to wait a few minutes for Konrad, a.k.a. the DAP employee I’d be working with for the next semester. After a short meeting he told me he had a task to attend to and asked if I would mind waiting a bit. Anxiously I watched the workers speed walk from the dining room to their offices, or what I would imagine to be a living room, study, or something of the like, and noticed that the girl I was sitting next to was jiggling her leg and picking at her nails. The girl two seats down from her was staring at the ground and crossing and uncrossing her legs every minute or two. Finally Konrad finished and brought me downstairs.

I was really curious to see what they did with the basement space, and now meandering my way around the narrowness of the staircase and the hallways I found my answer. Each room was an office and each office looked nicely sized until he told me that six to ten interns work in the two offices at a time. Talk about being squished. After all of the other volunteers from my class showed up we were told that we would be sitting in on the Men’s Orientation. I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

All they said was that my fellow DAP volunteers and I were going to sit in on the men’s meeting. Silly me thought that the men that would be in that meeting chose to be there and genuinely wanted help for their domestic abuse issue. I thought, “Maybe these are the men that were abused by women and needed help so they went to DAP.” I was so wrong.

They sat us down in the living room and told us to separate ourselves so we wouldn’t be intimidating to the men. I thought, what? Then the speaker who runs the orientation started to tell us to be respectful and try not to write while the men were talking, because most of them were court-ordered to be there and had no desire to be there. Once they started to trickle in, some looked at us DAP kids and figured they were in the wrong room and walked out, and others made confused faces and asked out loud if they were in the right place. Right then I felt so bad for making these people that were already struggling to go there feel even more out of place. I didn’t feel unsafe but I felt the hostility and tried to remind myself that we were in a place where they were getting help and hopefully they would find merit in the program. As the night went on it was easier to sit there but I definitely felt guilt for being who I was. I didn’t want to check my phone because it was an iPhone and thought about how I lived a relatively easy life compared to these men who, as I learned in the class, most likely came from abusive families and were continuing on with the cycle. I didn’t jump to the conclusion that their lives were unhappy but I felt guilt for the ease of mine, and the normalcy in my relationship with my boyfriend.  As Jackie said in class, I didn’t want to judge them but it was hard not to imagine how different our lives were, and then when I thought that I reminded myself that if I were put in the same situation I couldn’t even imagine how hard it would be to get out. Basically there was a lot of guilt and appreciation for the life I live, which is pretty much rainbows and butterflies compared to an abusive home, and the opportunities I have been given thus far.

The constant hustle and bustle of DAP gave me slight anxiety, but I could tell that everyone was trying. After sitting in on the men’s session I found that this type of work is not easy and is a little nerve-wracking to think about me doing something for this therapy place that is 100 % seriously active 100% of the time.  I got there at 5:00 and didn’t check the time until the men’s group meeting was over at 7:30. Being in such a lively place made it easy to get sidetracked with observation but hopefully I’ll be able to gain a story that all the other workers seem to carry with them all the time.