The 8-year-old veteran and other tales

Lighthearted anecdotes for National Tell a Joke Day

By Tim Poe, American Red Cross volunteer

“M-O-U-S-E!” An 8-year-old sang, making the toy I had given him dance on the table. His grandmother, whose apartment was one of several impacted by a fire the previous night, stood next to me. Two other American Red Cross members and I had spent the day in the building, assisting those affected by the disaster.

American Red Cross volunteer Tim Poe at the annual toy giveaway for families that experienced a home fire

As part of our assistance, I asked the grandmother questions that help us find resources for those impacted by a disaster. With each question, the child paused the doll’s dance to tell me how to spell names and something about the person.

“Are you or any member of your family a veteran?” I asked the grandmother. As she shook her head no, the child looked up, wide eyed, and shouted, “I’m a veteran!”

“No, you’re not, dear,” the grandmother said, patting his shoulder.

“Am too!” he shouted. “I don’t even like meat!”

The moment was a delight and much needed by all of us in the room.

In my various roles volunteering with the Red Cross, there have been many such lighthearted, fun moments. Today is National Tell a Joke Day, and while the Red Cross and its services are no joke, fun moments do happen. Here are a few.

American Red Cross volunteer Tim Poe at the annual toy giveaway for families that experienced a home fire

Before the pandemic, I took part in distributing toys for the holiday season for children whose families had been affected by disasters. Several tables were filled with toys, and we would help families pick something out. One child excitedly ran to all the tables, looking, but not selecting anything. He turned to me and asked, “Where are the drones?” The parents, alarmed, standing behind, subtly shook their heads but appeared relieved when I explained we didn’t have anything quite so fancy. After his initial disappointment, he seemed thrilled with a toy truck and crayon set.

One of the many benefits of being a Red Cross volunteer is working alongside unique, caring people with differing perspectives. Stories such as Christy Peters’ grandparents and tattoos emerge from our communications meetings.

This makes it a continuous learning experience, even about communicating. After a particularly strange sequence of events, and a fellow volunteer and I finished up and returned to a Red Cross vehicle. As I searched for words to begin processing the roller-coaster ride we had taken, she summed it up.

“Dude!” she said.

I can be verbose, but sometimes a single word is all that’s needed.

On another call, to an apartment where the fire was fortunately contained to a single unit and no one was hurt, an elderly lady emerged from her apartment, saw us, and stopped. “Mm hmm,” she said, pointing to a door. “That’s the one you want. And tell them never leave a candle burning and go out for a sandwich! Could’ve killed us all!” While to my knowledge the Red Cross has not offered this specific fire prevention tip, it’s good advice.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer
Posted by Ryan Lang, American Red Cross volunteer

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