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“You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.” 
― Kahlil Gibran

As I pull out of the parking lot of the nursing home I feel tears welling up in my eyes.  I am trying to process the past 2 and a half hours.

I let the tears flow uninterrupted.  It is hard to describe the multitude of feelings that are all fighting for first place.  I am sad, happy, overwhelmed, calm, powerless, mighty, unsettled, determined, humbled, proud and the list goes on and on.  Last night was a defining moment for me.

It was my first night volunteering at the at the nursing home.  I have been searching for volunteering opportunities for a long time.  I volunteered in Breezy Point  in the aftermath of the Hurricane and I loved it, but I also overdid with the manual labor  and had to stop because of my hip injury.  I was so down about that. So I was happy to finally find a place that wanted me.

“We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.” 
― Winston Churchill

Still in all my happiness to start volunteering, as the day was coming near I was growing more and more apprehensive.  I was making so many excuses in my mind on how this was a dumb idea and all the many different ways I could better spend my Monday night.  I had twinges of regret of having committed myself to this.  But making an excuse and not going was not an option.

I got there and was paired up with D.   D. works there as a therapist and the last 2 hours of her shift she spends visiting the residents.  I am so happy to report that this person embodies what a person that works in a nursing home should be like.  She is kind, calm, smiley and eager.  She exudes goodness.

She really didn’t know what job to give me as the person in charge of Volunteers is on vacation this week and had not left any instructions.  So I just tagged along  as she made her visits.  I love how respectful of their space she was, always asking for permission before entering their rooms, which is something,  that I have to be honest about it,  I would not have thought to do.

“It’s not how much we give but how much love we put into giving.” 
― Mother Teresa

We went into probably 10 different rooms and met perhaps another 10 people in the halls.  Since I always focus on results, I am already doing the math and realizing that I need to come in more often to be able to see more people.   Sometimes I forget the middle, the during, the journey.   I forget the real reason some job is performed, not everything is about a final result.  The point is not to see as many people as possible, but to make sure that whoever I see and whatever amount of time I have with them is a special time for them.

Something miraculously happened within the first 30 minutes.  I gotta out of my own head and focused on each moment and made each person the center of my world for that moment.

“A kind gesture can reach a wound that only compassion can heal.” 
― Steve Maraboli

At the end of the evening I realized I was born for this. Even though there is sadness in their disabilities and limitations, I like to think that I saw happiness too.  I saw fighters and warriors and I believe I a light that made them shine.  I made them smile and even if in an effort to make a joke I said the wrong thing I know they felt that my words were coming from a good place within in my being, from my heart.

My control freak side tried to make an appearance as this extreme fear of becoming old and dependent as everyone I met last night were. But why dwell on what I cannot control? It doesn’t matter rich or poor, beautiful or ugly, fat or thin, at some point our bodies and minds will start to go and no amount of fighting will be able to turn that around. 

“For it is in giving that we receive.” 
― St. Francis of Assisi

Please don’t think I am this great good-hearted  person.  Last night I gained much more than I gave.  I gained appreciation for my blessed life. I gained a different insight on the value of maintaining a healthy mind and body.   I gained love and acceptance from people that had never met me before.  Gosh, am I making volunteering all about me or am looking for lessons and opportunities in everything?   Is it all about what I can get out of it, or perhaps I am just exploring the extra benefits of extending a hand?  You be the judge.

I already have my mind made up that visiting the residents is what I want to do.  I had mentioned to the director that I was willing to take any job and help with office work, etc, but I think my time will be best used talking and sitting with the residents.  I am going to ask for a list of the residents that never have any visitors.  I want to bring them, in one word, Hope!  I want, not say, but demonstrate, that at least one person cares!

“No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.” 
― Charles Dickens