Mighty Volunteers

By Linda Porter Carlyle

MacKenzie Isabelle Evans craned her neck to see the back of herself in the long, skinny mirror. “How do I look?” she asked anxiously.

Mrs. Evans studied her daughter’s outfit. The long-sleeved light blue dress with tiny white flowers buttoned up the back. The long, full skirt hung almost to her ankles. “I think you look perfect!” she said. “You look like you just stepped out of the year 1911.”

Mac stuck out her foot. “My shoes don’t though.”

Mrs. Evans laughed. “You’re right. We’ll have to go to the mall and see if we can find some old-fashioned-looking shoes for you,” she agreed. “And please don’t let me forget to call your teacher tonight and tell her you’ll miss part of your school day tomorrow because of the Living History meeting. Now go back in the dressing room and take off your outfit. I’ll bring it home for you tonight. I’ll bring your costume home too, Joseph,” she added.

Mac jumped down the big, stone steps of the museum ahead of Joseph. “Can you believe it?” she asked. “I get to miss some school tomorrow because I’m a volunteer! If I had known I could miss school, I would have become a volunteer a long time ago!” She flung her arms out wide as if she were trying to fly.

“You can’t fool me,” Joseph said, jumping down the steps behind her. “You like school. I know you do.”

“Well, yes, I really do,” Mac admitted. “I guess it’s just exciting to be able to do something special, and new, and different. I like doing different stuff! Do you like your costume?”

“It’s not bad,” Joseph said. “It’s just that I look like a little kid.”

The next morning Joseph and Mac jogged to the museum, trying to keep warm in the frosty air. “It doesn’t look that much different from G.M.’s house,” Joseph said when they got to the pretty yellow house. “Or any of the other old houses in Jacksonville.” His breath made little white puffs in front of his face.

“Of course not,” Mac said as she pushed open the gate. “Our houses are old too. I like old houses better than new ones, don’t you?”

“Come in this way,” Miss Carol called with a smile as she opened the back door. “You’re right on time.”

Mac and Joseph wiped their feet carefully and walked through the back porch into the warm, cozy kitchen. The big, black iron cook stove heated up the whole room. “It feels good in here!” Joseph said, rubbing his hands together.

Miss Carol smiled at the five or six strangers who stood silently around the kitchen table. “I’m glad to welcome all of you new volunteers to the Living History program,” she said kindly. “Let’s go around the circle, and each person can introduce himself.”

Mac stood straight and tall. She liked being treated the same as the grown-ups. She pronounced her name loudly and clearly.

“Now,” Miss Carol said, “let me tell you a little about the Southern Oregon Historical Society. Every year more than 150,000 people from all over the world visit our museums.”

Joseph and Mac looked at each other. 150,000 people were a lot of people!

“We want to help our visitors here at Beekman House learn a little more about Jacksonville and what it was like to live here almost 100 years ago,” Miss Carol continued. “We volunteers need to be friendly and enthusiastic and make all our visitors feel welcome.

“I am going to take you on a tour of the house this morning,” Miss Carol went on, “and tell you a little bit about each of the rooms. And about what the different volunteers do when they are working. Let’s just start right here in the kitchen.

“Louise was the name of the Beekman’s hired girl,” Miss Carol began. “And Mac is going to play the part of her little sister. Louise had 11 brothers and sisters by the way. So, Mac, you need to pay special attention and learn all about the kitchen because this is where you will be working most of the time.”

Mac looked around. Just the thought of having a real volunteer job was so exciting! She felt all bubbly inside.

“The volunteer who plays Louise will learn to cook on the wood stove. We always try to have something cooking or baking when the house is open. That way it smells more like a real home. Mac, you’ll be chopping vegetables, or stirring soup, or helping to bake bread or cookies,” Miss Carol said. “And washing dishes, of course,” she added with a grin.

Mac and Joseph were at the Beekman House learning new things for almost two hours. “My head feels stuffed!” Mac complained as they walked home. “I don’t think I’ll ever remember everything I’m supposed to know! What if some visitor asks me something, and I don’t know the answer? I’ll be so embarrassed!”

“You’ll remember,” Joseph said encouragingly. “We’ll always have grown-ups there to help us. We really don’t have to do much talking. We’re just part of the scenery—sort of.”

Mac giggled. “It’s going to be just like being in a play, isn’t it?” she said. “And I’m sure I’ll know more about Jacksonville than anybody in school. Maybe even my teacher. That’s funny!” She gave a little hop and started to walk backwards in front of Joseph. “And I’m going to do my best to do a really good job. I’m going to be the best kid volunteer ever! I’m going to do what our memory verse says this week. ‘Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might.’ I’m going to be a mighty volunteer!”

“Well, you’re not going to be a better volunteer than I am!” Joseph announced. And I’m going to beat you home!” He began to race down the sidewalk.

“Hey! No fair! You got a head start!” Mac shouted, hot on his heels.

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