Does your high school have requirements on hour many volunteer hours you must do? My high school sure does, the minimum is sixty hours which may seem like a lot. It sounded like a lot of hours to recruit even in four years when I got started. However, in short order I realized that it truly wasn’t much at all, and it wasn’t the number of hours that counted but the experiences and lessons I learned from my encounters. After breaking it down I realized it was only slightly over the typical adult work week of 40 hours. After, I grew an understanding for this the hours seemed very minuscule as I set out to find a volunteering opportunity.
I ended up settling at a 2-hour nursing home. Admittedly, the idea didn’t come to be organically. My great-grandmother is a resident at this very place and my mother thought it would be good for me to gain some elderly persons experience. I was not opposed to this idea yet at first I wasn’t excited. It took me a few weeks to get my footing and learn the lay-out of the place. However, very soon I was interacting with the various personalities of the residents. Disproving any prior ideas I may have had about the elderly, I realized just how vibrant and lively some of their personalities could be. That’s not to say I never ran into challenges because like everyone else the elderly have feelings and hard days too and I had to learn preferences of the residents (seating arrangements, which activities they enjoyed, room numbers, etc.) or I’d surely be called out by some of the more vocal residents.
Anyways, arguably my biggest take-away from the home as I’m now reflecting on my time there, seeing as it is rapidly drawing to a close, was getting to know a woman named Lola (the name has been changed for her right to privacy). This blue-eyed, grey haired, sweetheart seemed to be the apple of everyone’s eye; I soon learned why as I quickly became close to her. From helping her to various activities to sitting and talking to her about her day I learned a lot about this strong woman. Many times I’d watch her stop and talk to fellow residents and I began to realize she truly wanted all the people around her to be happy like she seemed to be most of the time. Both caring and compassionate, most days were spent sitting by a large picture-frame window as she watched cars and people pass by, watching in amazement each day that passed. As time passed on, I learned what it was to appreciate the simple things in life as she seemed to do on a daily basis. I also learned the power of a smile seeing as she had this infectious ability to light up any room and consequently anyone around her. I will always be grateful for her for teaching me so many little lessons in the moments we shared with each other.
Lola has since passed away. Her presence around the home will be greatly missed by many including myself. I will never forget what she’s taught me and I hope to carry it forward and encourage others to volunteer wherever their passions are and truly become a part of whatever that may be. Take it from me, volunteering has been a great experience.
Kendall, Teen Blogger