Rick’s Story – Confessions of a Volunteer Fraud

I have a confession to make. People sometimes think I am such a good person for taking part in ABLE2’s Matching program, and that through my “volunteering”, I am making a real difference in my community. I need to get this off my chest though:  I have not considered myself a volunteer for a long time.

Let me take a step back and explain the situation.

I don’t remember the exact date, but it was a clear fall day circa 2011. I was surprised to feel a tad nervous as I approached his building, not surprising considering the novelty of the situation.  Really, how many times has anyone been formally matched with another adult for the sole purpose of friendship?

My first impression – he was a hulk of a man.  As I walked closer to him, alongside the social worker, feigning a slight wave of anxiety, my internal monologue continued to pose the question: “What on earth am I getting myself into?”.

Before I knew it, with smiles and outstretched hands, I heard ““Hi, I am Andy” and the rest, as they say, is history.

Meeting Andy that day was the culmination of some inner soul searching.  I had been looking for some time for a meaningful and personal way I could contribute and give back to the community. Volunteering was always something I knew I wanted to do, but the idea of doing more work after coming home from the office was not overly appealing.  It was through this minimalist lens that I began slowly, hesitantly looking into volunteer opportunities around my neighbourhood. Not going to lie, I was skeptical that I could find something meaningful AND easy.  As selfish as it may sound, while my overall focus was on “giving back”, I could not silence the little voice in my head” “what would I get out this”.

I wanted to volunteer, but kind of in a lazy way, if such a concept can exist, so when I stumbled upon ABLE2’s matching program, I was intrigued. What would be the harm in filling out this little application to start?

Fast forward a few months, I was somewhat uneasy as I sat down for the first time with the social worker to discuss potential matches. I nervously thought: how do I express to them in a sensitive way that I am not equipped to be a caretaker and that all I have to offer is my (well-honed) ability to simply hang out? So, without shame, I provided an overview of my “social” resume:  I like to chat, sit, watch sports, drink the odd beer, go to the gym, watch movies…….I was putting all of my cards on the table and was considering strongly the chance I would be rejected on the spot.

Either by happenstance, luck – or more likely due to the incredible matchmaking services at ABLE2 – they found me what turned into a perfect match.

“Do you like movies? Would you come to my next movie night?  Would you ever go to the pub with me?” I don’t know if these were the exact three questions Andy asked me the evening we first met, but it was definitely within the first few minutes.  My nerves now aside – without thinking – I blurted an enthusiastic: “Of course, sounds fun!”. 

I had no idea then that from that day on I would be seeing Andy for next twelve years and counting. I hang out with him now every week, usually on Thursdays. I go to his place or mine or we go to the Pub to watch the game – we eat chips, pizza, wings (and beer for me!), chat and just chill out, which is pretty much my MO whenever I see any of my other family or friends. I should also mention that Andy is a great cook, and he has made amazing meals for us on many occasions. I have also learned that one of the greatest feelings in the world is spending time with someone who is genuinely happy to see you each and every time.

I remember the first time the social worker followed up with us about our match sometime after our first meeting. In a nutshell (while being polite of course), I said something to the effect: “I do not think we will really need your services”.

And this brings me to the crux of this story, I have not considered hanging out with Andy as volunteering for quite some time. Andy is my good friend, he is now like family.

In the end, I would recommend an ABLE2 Matching program to anyone.  It is a chance to make a real meaningful difference in someone’s life, including your own. And – who among us could not use another friend? What other life experience can be so rewarding with the only effort being “show up” and “enjoy”?

Anyways, that is my confession. I feel much better and thank you for reading.


Rick Burns

ABLE2 Match Ally and Board Member