Tomorrow, I’m to go to the senior’s home for the first time to volunteer. I feel many things as I think about it. First and foremost, I feel excitement as this is something I’ve wanted incorporate into my life for several years now. Second, I feel some disappointment, as the volunteer coordinator has slotted me in a position I find to be quite ironic. I’ll be folding laundry alongside seniors. I practically fold laundry for a living in my current life. A load spins comfortingly as I type. Mostly I feel happy, though. I’m pleased that they’ve placed me with the seniors I feel best equipped to help. They didn’t place me with the dementia patients and they also didn’t place me with the seniors living in the assisted living apartments, who can mostly fend for themselves and who have the best rate of family involvement in their lives as it is. I’m with those who are well aware of their faculties and surroundings and so are therefore probably most lonely.
I felt alternating pangs of sadness and growing joy when I went in for my interview. The sadness stemmed from seeing the advanced dementia patients sitting motionless in their wheelchairs, mouths gaping as they watched television. Though the care workers were obviously compassionate people trying their best to enhance the lives of these people, everything felt so gray. I looked at the half circle of wheelchairs and read their names neatly labeling the back of each chair and I felt acutely aware of the whole, once vibrant lives those inadequate white labels represented. It felt stunningly wrong to see these mothers and fathers and husbands and wives, artists and entrepreneurs sitting so still before the daytime television that now occupied their existences in a disproportionate way. They seemed sapped of their very selves and yet I learned that many of them have vibrant, alert minds trapped inside those motionless, dependent bodies. Of course this saddens one further.
The growing joy part stems from knowing that I'm taking a step - albeit an infinitesimal one - to do something to build into the lives of some lonely people. When I reflect back on my own life, one of the more meaningful relationships I've yet been a part of was the one I shared with my Grandma Dixie. I loved her with every ounce of my neophyte heart. I knew as soon as I was able to process such things that my Grandma was good. She taught me things that I've never forgotten. It seemed to me then that wisdom practically seeped out of her pores. She knew how to knit and crochet and make pancakes, such pancakes! I thought back then that maybe she was God's smartest person. As I think about her, I think about how in her later years, she was confined to a senior's home and about how unhappy that made her feel. And naturally my thoughts turn to the countless others like her living perhaps against their will in these places. And I want to be with them and do what I can to make them smile, even if only for a moment.