I've mentioned to you that one of my New Year's resolutions is to volunteer in a senior's home this year.  I've now jumped through most of the myriad hoops required in order to do so.  Though the hoops are time, energy and even money consuming, I'm pleased to know that they exist.  The seniors I'll be working with are easily hurt and the  hoops are in place to insure that no one takes advantage of these lovely, lonely people.

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.


02/09/2011 9:43am

My lovely friend. These seniors will have their socks blessed off by having you in their lives! I applaud you at this step!

Having been a "candy-striper" myself for 2 years, I know how important and valuable the relationships are that you will strike up with the people there. Like your children missing you after a week away, they will likely count down the days and hours until you come again - awaiting your arrival with anticipation!

God bless you in this step, as you bless them!!!

ps - i love that your grandma's name was "Dixie". Somehow it just seems right :)

Charmaine McGowan
02/09/2011 10:57am

Yes Grandma's pancakes were the BEST, especially in the afternoon rolled with brown sugar :)

I look forward to your blog.


02/11/2011 12:28pm

Thanks so much girls. I love all this talk about brown sugar pancake rolls and the name Dixie. It really is the best, isn't it?

Beth Sparrow
02/14/2011 4:25pm

What a blessing you will be to them! Although the staff may love and care for the residents they are so limited. But volunteers are such a blessing to fill such a large void. They will wait for you like a child on Christmas morning and you'll gain so much more then you give. Your sweet smile will light of their day. Remember that emotions stay longer them the memory of the experience. So a pleasant feeling they get from towel folding and the fun conversation will stay with them and surpass the memory of the actual event.

Pre-children that was my occupation, program services manager and volunteer coordinator.

02/16/2011 11:53am

Beth, thanks for your comment. You are a true insider. I've often thought as I've begun to spend more time at the senior's home that the role you played there must be such a satisfying one. But of course, now you fill another! The role of a mother is really just unsurpassed in my opinion. :)


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