by Mandy Stussman ’14
Every day I get up and go to school. I see my friends; I go to my classes. As I carry on throughout the week my routine remains pretty much the same, except for one day, every Wednesday, when I take the time, if only an hour or two, to appreciate everything I have in my life. I still carry on with my daily activities but all day long I have a secret yearning, an excitement because I know after school I get to visit the place I feel most at peace, my second home, Brooke Grove Retirement Village.
It’s hard to explain what I love so much about it. When I tell others what I do there, it just sounds boring. I usually play bingo, sing songs or just chat with the residents. Exciting, right? But somehow, it is the most rewarding thing I do. I would like to say the reason I enjoy volunteering is because the residents benefit from it. That the smiles on their faces when I tell them some small, uneventful fact about my life are enough. But I think the real reason I enjoy it so much is because when I’m there, even if I have to repeat where I go to school every two minutes, I am never judged. No one is there to analyze me or decide if I’m good enough. I never have to worry what anyone thinks. I can just relax and be myself.
When I am at Brooke Grove, I am the most appreciated person in the world. I am constantly thanked for being there. Each resident has a unique personality, whether they are caring, playful or reflective. From Harry, a man who loves to flirt and make jokes, to Shirley who calls me her other daughter, to Teppa, a silent sweetheart who loves to toss balloons back and forth, I know I belong there.
I started volunteering about a year ago, and it hasn’t always meant so much to me. It’s not something that happened immediately, but overtime through my volunteering I feel like I have learned to appreciate everything I have. Listening to stories of war and death really puts things into perspective. As does watching the residents move so slowly, like each movement aches, like they are trapped inside a body that doesn’t seem to work like it did in youth. Yet each resident, even as they travel with walkers or in wheelchairs, seem to just enjoy life. It amazes me that these people, after losing so much, can be some of the happiest, kindest people in the world.
As Estelle watches out the window waiting for her spouse, who I know is long deceased, or as Charlotte tells a story about her eight year old son, who I know is now much older, I learn to cherish each moment I have in my life and hope that in my old age I too have someone who I can count on to come visit me and brighten my day.
Stussman is currently enrolled in journalism.
The Warrior Online will begin to feature stories from Sherwood High School’s journalism class as a reward for hard work and to foster a stronger connection to the world of journalism among younger writers.