52 Projects is an adventure in discovery. Every week, for 52 weeks, do something. Something you’ve never done before. Something you’ve always wanted to do. Something that scares you. Something that inspires you. Something that inspires others. Something that tickles your fancy. Something that caught your eye. Something that just popped into your head. It can be big. It can be small. It can be whatever you want it to be. Find out how doing something can lead you to discover things about yourself, your world, your God. Then, come here on Sundays and share it with others. I'll write about mine here, you write about yours on your blog, then use the tool in my post to link to your something. Please feel free to jump in and participate anytime throughout the year!
Sunday, February 21, 2010
Week 5: Volunteer work at a nursing home
Not every project for me is about making pretty art. One thing that I have felt called to do for years is to volunteer my time for those that could benefit from my serving them. Specifically, I’ve felt a calling to do this in either a children’s hospital or a nursing home. After applying to my first choice of The Children’s Hospital and never hearing back, I decided to apply to a local nursing home. The nursing home contacted me quickly; they were thrilled to have someone with an art background come to help out. Last week I went for my initial orientation. To be honest, I wasn’t sure if I would be able to go back. When I entered the nursing home facility, the smell of sickness and dying hit me immediately. By the time I got to the top floor dementia unit the sadness overtook me. There were quite a few patients stuffed in wheel chairs with their heads on their chests in the corner and I wondered what that quality of life must feel like. For most of these patients, this is their final place.
I had 2 snow storms and a week to decide if I would go back. I decided that I did indeed want to give this a try. On Wednesday of this week I arrived at the nursing home, logged in and had my very first official volunteer experience. It was “manicure day” and when I arrived in the lobby there was a huge circle of women in wheel chairs waiting for me. The irony is that I am the polar opposite of this type of pampering. I am so low maintenance that I’m not even on the radar. For an hour and a half I held these women’s hands in mine and gently filed, trimmed and painted their nails. Very quickly I realized that the true beauty of my experience was not in the act of the manicure. With each hand I held, I could feel the flow of energy and I was feeling every rich and colorful memory of every word they said. It was the most touching thing I’ve felt in such a long time. I felt so good to be able to make these women feel beautiful and special. One woman appeared to have had a stroke. Although she couldn’t communicate very well, I could see by the sparkle in her eyes that this treatment for her was so special. I’m going back every Wednesday afternoon as long as I am in the position to do so.
This is my year for stepping out and bridging people together. This is my year for growing and discovering and serving and connecting. One of the women told me she was a knitter and was disappointed because their knitting circle no longer existed there; she knits alone in her room. So do many others and then there are a few who want to learn. You know where this is going, don’t you? I immediately offered to head a knitting circle and I’m going to keep on the Activities Director until it is established. And just to show you how inspired I am by those of you who have participated here at 52 Projects, Erika shared a scarf that she knit on a knitting loom. I Googled the loom and found that it is the perfect tool for elderly people who might have problems with their hands and the use of two knitting needles. So I am off to buy one of these, learn how to use it and share the skill with the ladies at the nursing home. Thank you, Erika. You have inspired me.
There is so much need for a little more compassion in this world. Volunteering does not mean giving up huge chunks of time. You could do a half hour shift once a week if that’s all you were able to do. You have no idea how much your willingness to help means to others. I think that maybe the reason why lots of people don’t want to go work in a nursing home is because it scares them to see where they themselves could be someday. Most of us take for granted this freedom we have every day to be independent, choose our own meals, take long walks and enjoy the beauty of our youth. This experience has shown me two major things:
1. It feels so good to be of service; expecting nothing in return. The Universe is calling us to build bridges with people of all ages, races and religions. This is where I feel so energized and happy. I want to follow this calling.
2. I have spent too much time over the past few months feeling “too old” and frustrated. I haven’t been living each day to the fullest. I am blessed with good health and mobility. I am blessed with youth. I am blessed with an intelligent and creative mind. I am blessed with an amazing husband and 2 beautiful children. I have the power to choose. I am a vibrant woman. I am in the prime of my life and I can do anything I put my mind to. The world is my oyster. Each day is a gift. Use it wisely. How have you been using your time?