Spending my Saturdays with the elderly has proven to be one of the most enriching experiences of my high school career. My time at the nursing home has allowed me to grow as a person, as I have learned many valuable lessons and pieces of advice from those who have so much wisdom to share. I no longer feel as though I am spending my morning volunteering, when in fact, those wise men and women actually do more for me than I could ever for them. Additionally, listening to firsthand accounts of life in Nashville back in the fifties and sixties has been one of the most interesting history lessons. Most people do not have access to such primary resources on a weekly basis. My duties at the nursing home include reading with them and keeping them company. However, I will also run small errands for them, such as picking up desserts. I also spent time reading to them and helping them with tasks. Being an individual that could spend time with them when they spend so much of their time alone has been one of the most gratifying uses of my time.
There were many lessons that I learned while volunteering at the nursing home. For example, I learned that there are different ways to care for an individual, whether it be emotionally, mentally, or even physically. I met an amazing woman named Lee who was sadly diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Her condition confused me as I have not had prior exposure to those suffering from that condition, but it did not affect my ability to care for her. Spending my days with Lee ultimately impacted my life positively. The level of compassion that she allowed me to exhibit has remained with me to this day.
Although she had Alzheimer’s, Lee was very wise. This was another scenario in which I learned more than I could ever from a classroom. The topics that we covered ranged from education to personal experiences that molded her into who she was. Watching her deteriorate through Alzheimer’s allowed me to realize how precious memories are, and the importance of preserving those through pictures and written word. Consequently, I began keeping a journal as a result of my experience with Lee.
Letting go of Lee was painful, and journaling eased the grief. Becoming close with people who have diseases such as Alzheimer’s can be very sad, but in this situation it was rewarding. She was extremely positive, and her advice proved to be very helpful and timely. I’m grateful to have the memory of Lee preserved in my mind, and thank the nursing home for bringing us both together. Because Lee was a phenomenal woman, meeting her has impacted my life very greatly. Spending time with her and hearing about her personal experiences shaped me into a better person, and also prepared me for what’s to come later on in life. Not only was she a great person, but she was very talented. She even encouraged me to continue playing the violin! She also encouraged me to continue furthering my education and to remain focused on my daily goals.
Typically, the nursing home is associated with sadness; however, volunteering there has allowed me to gain an alternative perspective. The friendships that are made and the bonding that occurs are intangible experiences that deserve attention. Ultimately, Lee positively impacted my life, and I can only be thankful for that. She shared stories, laughs, and valuable pieces of advice. She wanted me to learn from her mistakes, and understood the importance of education. I am not sad to have lost a great soul, I am happy someone as incredible as her existed.