My student service hours at the National Lutheran Home have given me rewards beyond mere fond memories. The sincere thank-yous I receive from cancer patients, the wheelchair-confined elderly and the sight-impaired mean a lot.
When Istarted working there as a game coordinator, I didn't know what to expect, but the residents were so pleasant and helpful that I soon really enjoyed my visits. We played our own style of basketball and bowling, as well as less active gamesincluding Truth or Consequences.
The home, however, has many needs, and Isoon learned I could also be useful serving meals, carrying trays and seatingresidents at dinner. Last summer, I worked in the physical therapy unit, where Igot to know more residents. When you help those with fragile health you reallylearn to appreciate your own. I worked with one elderly man who didn't want to dohis exercises. I would help him with his leg exercises, which he would start butstop when I stopped. I'd look up to see a big grin on his face before he startedto laugh.
Recently, the Director of Volunteer Services asked me tocoordinate the pet program. This is of special interest to me because I want tobe a veterinarian. Since the home has several levels of care, some residents areallowed to have pets. In addition, friends and relatives can bring pets to visit,but they must be registered and monitored to protect the residents from animalsthat have not been properly cared for, and to protect the home from lawsuits. Tobe registered, the pets must have regular veterinary care. I am now organizingthe pet records to make sure all pets have current shot records, which means Iget to know some of the pets. I am particularly interested in meeting the ferretthat lives in the independent living section. I miss the resident friends I made,though, and hope to return to the cafeteria and physical therapy unit once thepet program is updated.
Volunteering has helped me appreciate mywell-being and given me a sound perspective on why I should serve others. Thesaying "You get more than you give" when you volunteer really istrue.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.