And Girls

My text: “When you say sliced roast beef on your list, do you mean deli roast beef or something else?”

Her text: “At Trader Joe, ask GUYS @CUSTOMER Service desk: in a box, to cook, and it is sliced roast beef in that box. Should be in Refrigerator section, ask?”

My text: “What?”

I’m a junior in high school. This made no sense to me.

I started Guys Helping in March, about a week after Ned Lamont declared a state of emergency. My mom, actually, had the idea; my grandmother lives in Cape Cod, and wouldn’t we love to have someone run errands for her? So why not help someone else’s grandmother here.

I called some friends and asked if they wanted to run errands for people who were seniors or couldn’t leave their homes. Most of them said yes, so there were about ten of us. My mom sent word out on social media and Dan Woog posted it in his blog. Pretty soon we were on Lisa Wexler’s morning radio show and Channel 12. Teen Vogue and Westport News wrote articles about us. Even the Today show called!

We all looked at each other and shrugged.

To us, we weren’t any of the things the news called us: heroes? We were just a group of teenagers trying to navigate people’s oddly specific orange juice requests. I guess pulp is kind of a polarizing thing.

Going from the occasional grocery trip with my mom to 300-item lists was a wild step up: I learned a lot. Fast. My aisle knowledge of Stop & Shop may now rival that of an employee’s. I know when Whole Foods opens and when it closes and the average wait time at Trader Joe’s. I’m sure Will Matar, Charlotte Robins, Hannah Matteson, Clara and Will Holleman, Quinn Markham and Jared Parnes can say the same.

None of us are legal adults and because of our age COVID is not as high of a threat to us as it is to adults. Every time we completed a delivery it was one person who would not have to compromise their health to get groceries. Will Matar says, "My favorite part of my experience in this group is how Westport has become smaller through the many interactions I am fortunate enough to have. Having the opportunity to be able to serve my community like this truly makes me feel lucky.” I certainly wasn’t looking for any wildly transcendent vision, but it did become liberating to a certain degree. We’re high schoolers. But suddenly adults are relying on us instead of us relying on them.

That being said, our original expectation of Guys Helping was nothing like what it turned into. Clara Holleman  (with her brother, Will) writes “We initially volunteered for Guys Helping because we thought it was a nice way to spend a few weeks helping transport food and medication to Westport’s more vulnerable community. What we didn’t expect was the joy of singing 'Happy Birthday' to a woman who was confined in her home with no family or friends there to celebrate with her. We also didn’t expect the positive experience of making the connections with a few friendly adults in the community.”

We work pretty hard. We spend hours, going from store to store to get the right orange juice and whatever roast beef they want. Because we can. Because we have to.

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