One of the great gifts that I have in my everyday, is that I get to bring students on various service experiences. I recently brought a small group of young students over to serve at an elderly facility, and prior to bringing students over, I always give them a brief orientation on what they may encounter, just so that they are prepared.
Volunteering with the elderly, especially in facilities where the residents may not be as responsive or verbal, can be challenging…for anyone! But especially for high school students.
What I found this afternoon though, is that these students embraced the experience through and through. I had been visiting this center for about 3 years now, and this was the first group where I did not feel like I had to intervene or assist or really, guide students in any way. Two students went directly to speak with the residents – they brought a chair over, and sat with them. The entire time. Lots of moments of silence, lots of pauses, but dedicated listening and patience, and slow conversation took place. It was such a sight to see!
Meanwhile, the other students, each worked alongside one of the residents with the Easter Egg and Shamrock crafts that were provided to them. Though one resident was confined to a particular way in his seat, my student carefully and patiently helped him paint. The entire time! Carefully explaining what she was doing, and taking care, while in the process…I had never seen him so happy to be working alongside someone.
Later, I offered to make crafts with another resident and she wasn’t having it. She just wanted to sit there…sooo I let her be. Later on, one of my students offered to try, and the resident completely loved her company and wanted to make more than one! Her at first negative demeanor turned to gentleness and kindness when she asked, “Does she have time to make another one with me? Is it too much trouble?” With a smile, they made the second craft together.
God was so present in the room, and the Volunteer Coordinator said to me, “This was such a GREAT group of students!” She was brought to tears at the happiness and joy she had seen in her patients. This was a new thing. I recognize that not every visit will be like this…but when these moments do happen, I can’t help but be grateful for the kind students that I have the opportunity to work with.