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!

Jane


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?

14 comments:

  1. ~such a beautiful post jane and a reminder of the circle of life...we can all help in small ways that don't need to outshine or be monumetous...just simple...time and love...how big your heart is and and how it must be just overflowing with gratitude...to see anothers eyes sparkle by the mere connection of touch...blessed you are and what a blessing you are to this world...wonderful 52 projects this week...brightest blessings~

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  2. Wonderful post Jane. I work in this client group and feel just what you expressed each working day.Lovely that you made the effort to connect and give up your time. From experience I would just say that whatever you give of yourself will be returned ten fold from the people you are helping, and it really lifts you knowing you have made a difference in any small way.

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  3. This fantastic. These people are so lucky to have you and you, them.

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  4. So glad we will grow old together.

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  5. Oh, so beautiful and so right for me to read today. I spent a day and overnight once a week with my grandmother during the last 3 years of her life, when dementia had set in and she needed care. It was once the best, hardest and richest experiences of my life, and one I'm forever grateful I said yes to. Thmubs up to you, I love the vibrancy of you!

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  6. Jane, this is so wonderful!! I know that you will be a positive light for these people in the nursing facility. It helps so much to have people volunteer there time, some individuals that live in these homes never get any visitors and it is just heart breaking. I have been volunteering for a hospice agency for the past three years and love every minute of it. In the end, it is hard to lose someone that has become your friend, but the experience of giving back turns out to be such a gift, to you, the volunteer. your post is beautiful!

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  7. What a beautiful post. I have always volunteered with children because this is where I felt I could make the most difference but your post has made me think I may have something to offer in the area as well.

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  8. Jane, you have to touch a very soft spot in my heart. I used to volunteer for a non-profit organization that helped the elderly either in nursing homes or the ones that were in their houses, but needed medicine, helped with groceries, friendship, etc... Then, we moved quite far and could not continue. I had meant to find a place like this near our house. Your post made me cry (in a good kind of remembering some memories) of my Grandmother that passed away 3 yrs ago. I was raised by my mom and her and we used to do the girly things like nails and hair. Good for you and I am very proud :)

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  9. This is such a wonderful thing to do and also for you to have discovered within yourself. It sounds like you are going to be able to give so much joy and happiness to these people. A wonderful gift!

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  10. Wonderful. I know that they appreciate you being there. Truly inspiring!!

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  11. I love this story, Jane, and your honesty here. How beautiful! I am enjoying your 52 Projects. Love, O

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  12. For hours I have been looking and reading other articles about Volunteer work at a nursing home.
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  13. What an inspiration to read your words. I am going volunteer in the local Healing Arts program at a retirement home next week. I stumbled upon your site while looking for project suggestions.
    Thanks so much for posting this.

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