One of the topics I will be writing about here is volunteering. Growing up, I had amazing role models in giving as well as caring for those around me, as both sets of grandparents and my parents went above and beyond. I am hoping to share stories of people just like them (and you!) who serve right where they are. To kick it off, I want to share a personal story.
Right after I graduated from college, my Mom was diagnosed with cancer for a second time. She fought for ten months, and then we called in hospice. I can still remember the hospice nurse 18 years later. Her face, and especially eyes, were so kind. She felt so deeply for us. This sweet woman didn’t have to come every day, but she did. I felt like she must be an angel.
Fast forward about a decade, and my girls were both going to be in school all day. I had longed to volunteer and now had a chance. I remember the night I got an email from our church with volunteer opportunities and one was to serve tea at a new hospice facility. I felt like it was put there just for me. I was at once drawn to the idea and also felt sickened by it. I couldn’t imagine having the strength to work with people I would lose, but I also knew how much hospice had meant to me. All night I wrestled with the idea. The fact that it was tea related-which I had drunk so much of with my family growing up-made it even harder to ignore.
The next morning, I went over everything with my best friend over coffee. My heart told me I had to do it while also feeling it would be too painful. I left her home knowing I had to, so I signed up for the many hours of training. The funny thing is that the ladies who had wanted to join me couldn’t do the training, so we never did serve tea. Once I finished training, I visited the facility one morning a week.
The day that stands out to me the most is the one that felt like I did nothing. When I got to the nurses station, they were all beyond tired. Normally, these ladies would point me to a room of someone who didn’t have family around, and I would listen to them tell stories. They had learned a lot in their years, and I loved learning from them.
This day, however, the nurses told me a woman was there who would wake up every 15 minutes and scream. A nurse had to run in and calm her down. They asked if I would sit and hold her hand for the morning. I sat down next to her bed and picked up her hand. In her sleep she had quite a grip. The nurses were right. Every 15 minutes, she would open her eyes, roll her face toward me, smile slightly and drift back to sleep. It was obvious she didn’t like being alone. I spent the morning praying for her not to be scared. I couldn’t imagine her loneliness or the thoughts going through her mind. As a Christian, I knew God could help her.
When it was time for me to leave, I felt like I hadn’t done anything until I walked past the nurses again. They looked at me with such grateful smiles. Without one of them having to run into this woman’s room four times an hour, they could focus on the other residents. I also realized that at least for a short time, this woman had peace. I didn’t need any skills to sit with her, just compassion. No one deserves to wake up scared and alone and I was honored to be a small part that day.
It probably sounds counter intuitive, but I feel I get as much out of volunteering as the people I am there to help. Probably more. After I have helped someone in some small way, my perspective has shifted. Whatever problems I came in with seem more manageable. I think that is true of all of us. When we use some time and our experiences to help someone else, our minds and hearts are focused where they should be-on our neighbors.
I hope you will join me as I get stories from others who know how great it is to be a blessing. With everything going on in the world, we can all stand to look at the needs of those around and reach out. If you have a story to share of when serving in your community changed your perspective or made an impact on you, I would love to share it here!