The Adventures of Meerkat Girl: Altruism v. Desk

Alyssa Armbruster

by Alyssa Armbruster

damn desk drawersI volunteer at Memorial Hospital.  Every Sunday evening I man my desk doing important volunteer things.  I sit at my creaky, metal desk that holds the secrets to the universe… or a pack of playing cards, assorted graham crackers and a couple of crosswords.  It also contains my precious clock out sheet and the holding place for my clearance card.

It’s impossible to leave without first consulting the desk.  To my surprise, when I tiredly leaned over to open the rusty drawer it made a creaking, clicking sound.  The drawer was stuck!

I quickly realized I would not be going home that night.  I was not going to put on my pjs and spend the rest of the night watching reruns of Seinfeld.  I was going to stay and wrestle somewhat discretely with an ancient, malevolent desk.  I bent over to pry it open.  Click. Click.  Click.  I had been denied.

I’ve never been goaded by an inanimate object before and I wasn’t going to be beaten by a pitiful desk. With a glance around to make sure I wasn’t drawing attention to myself I placed my foot on the desk, leaned far back into my chair and took a long, hard yank to the handle on the drawer. Instead of a quiet click, I got a loud boom, as metal struck metal.  With frustration I positioned myself on the floor and gripped the handle once more.




Looking quite similar to a meerkat, I peered over my desk. To my horror, every last person was looking in my direction with amused looks on their faces.  I dropped back down to the floor of the hospital, trying to pry the desk open with a ruler. When a security guard came and stood over me.

“Need some help?” He laughed at me.  Moments later he was on his hands and knees trying to open my desk, all while instructing me in the art of drawer unlocking, since clearly I was a novice.  After a good amount of time, the drawer came loose and I was free to enjoy a bowl full of chocolate ice cream and bad reruns of Seinfeld!

The episode of unfastening the desk was a reminder to me why I had started volunteering in the first place (just go with me on this). When I go out of my way to help someone in need, or give words of kindness to others to brighten their day it reminds me that I am a part of something bigger than myself.  My concerns and frustrations can’t take precedence when I am assisting others. No explanation does justice to the feeling of euphoria from doing a compassionate favor to someone and walking away knowing your only reward is the one you reap, their gratitude.

Much like the desk, we can be helpless to solve our own situations, stuck in the rut believing that we can accomplish every task by ourselves.  However, we are grateful when another person comes along to help elevate our burdens.  Tugging on the desk drawer on their hands and knees until the desk springs open to show us there is always another way, one of help and encouragement.  Making us want to go out and help the meerkat of a girl struggling under her desk.


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