Maddie Jecker - Grade 7, Incarnation Catholic School
Who served Who?
The heat overwhelmed me when I first entered the building. It seemed so hot in the lobby. I didn’t know if it was really the heat or my nerves. I also couldn’t tell who was more nervous, my neighbor or me. We were going to volunteer for her high school Key Club. There were at least seventy years stretched between the residents and me. What could I even talk about with the people? Did we actually have anything in common?
Suddenly, the black and grey cat meowed in my arms. I gripped the cat tighter as the elderly lady in her wheelchair smiled and reached out to pet the cat. She seemed so pleased with our interactions. She asked me for the cat’s name, but I couldn’t remember what SISCA told us so I nervously mumbled something under my breath about how I didn’t know its name. She responded, “Did you say Midnight?” I love that name!” That’s not what I said, but I agreed as the lady proceeded to tell a story of a stray cat during her youth. I listened and began to relax. My high school neighbor did, too. As we stood in the lobby, more residents gathered to pet the cat and shared their “cat stories.” Some of the stories brought me to tears of laughter. Before we knew it, two hours passed and we hadn’t even moved out of the lobby. Although “Midnight” was becoming a little restless, I could have stayed there until “midnight” listening to the residents’ stories.
My neighbor and I left smiling and planned for our next visit. We never expected for this to be such a fun service project when we first arrived. By talking to the elderly, I realized at a young age I was making a difference in their lives while they were making a difference in mine. Who was serving who? I now saw my elders as a piece of history with stories similar to my own. Although seventy or more years stretched between us I was beginning to realize very little was different. They had a youth just like me. They also probably visited the elderly when they were young.
I have since been to several different nursing homes Christmas caroling with my Girl Scout troop and performing with my dance company. I now enter the nursing home comfortably and enjoy interacting with the residents. When I dance on stage, I look in the audience and can see the residents smiling or swaying to the music. I, too, smile and wonder what story they might be remembering from their youth. I want to talk to them and see if maybe they were once a dancer. Does the music strike a chord in their memory? What is their piece in history? There is so much we can learn if we simply learn to listen.