Wednesday, July 22, 2015

I did not need to have a lot to give a lot...

(from an online student summer AMH 2020)

I have always tried to be aware of the needs of my fellow human beings, however this semester proved to be filled with outside stresses that made the day-to-day more difficult. My mother seemed to need me more and more and childcare for my little ones kept falling through for this semester’s classes. I was very unsure as to how I would have to time to fit in a true act of service that brought someone joy and made someone’s day a little brighter. I began to think that my simple donation of clothing for the VA would have to suffice. Honestly that didn’t feel like enough. I am glad that I was able to donate clean fresh clothing to those who served my country, but I didn’t feel the impact of such an act was really a game changer. I personally wanted to use this as an opportunity to impact someone’s life for the better. After all, this was to be our mission for the semester. In my mind that required time, thought and effort. Not a quick, last-minute gift that lacked any real consideration. Finally, an act of service, true service came my way. This act was performed for a family member over the course of a month. She and her family moved in next door to her in-laws because her father-in-law has suffered several strokes and they needed to be nearby for safety reasons. This move meant that they would need two incomes. Suddenly instead of working a couple of days a week part time while her children were in school, she was suddenly thrust into the daily eight to five grind. She was able to find a job doing something she loves, but keeping up with the house, the children, the animals and being there for her in-laws was beginning to take its toll. In her struggle, I saw my mission; to help her through a stressful transition through service. I began going over on Fridays and for about 3 hours a day I went about the task of helping with the household chores. I dusted all of the furniture and the fans. I scrubbed the kitchen cabinets, countertops, cooktop and floors. I scoured all three bathrooms top to bottom. I vacuumed the floors and mopped. I washed windows. After that, I spent two Saturdays tearing down old wallpaper, painting, and repairing old grout. Finally she has a clean kitchen! Although my family member is finally getting the hang of her new schedule and I have found very little to do when arriving for my mission, it has been a wonderful experience!
This was a great mission because I was able to see the direct impact of my work. I received the sweetest text from her when she realized who was doing the work around the house. She knew her children were not responsible for the work! The text read: “My house looks, smells and feels amazing! Work was terrible today-training isn’t going well. You are such a blessing!” This warmed my heart. She hasn’t held a full-time job in sixteen years. Going back to work after that time must have been absolutely terrifying. Having to do that while worrying about your father-in-law and getting settled in a new home made it that much more daunting. However, coming home to a fresh clean house, without a giant list of “to-do’s” taking over her evenings and weekends made the transition easier. More importantly she felt loved and cared for. I know too well how this feels, heading back to school with three small children while caring for my mom who suffers from Parkinson’s Disease has been a very uneasy road. It was the little gestures from those who recognized my struggle that made my transition work. That is what I really took from this mission. It is all about being there for someone. Looking past yourself and your own day-to-day and noticing someone and recognizing their need. So often people drown in the feeling of being overwhelmed and alone, fearing to ask for help. It is as if we are not supposed to need help from someone else. Instead of letting our friends, family, a neighbors drown in silence we can pay attention to each other and lift one another’s burdens.
As I said before, I was able to have my children with me which became a really wonderful idea. They were able to actively participate in helping me clean and paint her kitchen which served two purposes. One, they are learning the value of hard work which will be an indispensable gift to them as they reach their adulthood. Lastly, they saw the value of helping someone in need. They were able to experience the satisfaction of seeing someone’s reaction when an act of service is given at just the right time. That joy they felt is something I am certain will stay with them. If that means I am raising children who are able to live life a little more selflessly, I am pretty okay with that. I think if we all took the time to teach children the value of reaching out to their fellow human beings, we may be able to heal so much of the hurt in the world. It would be an incredible gift for all.
I am very glad that I took the opportunity to accept this secret mission for the semester. It was an excellent reminder for me. Often times we allow ourselves to be wrapped up in our own issues to the point that we forget that we always have something that we can share with others. In retrospect, I did not need to have a lot in order to give a lot. It was just me that I needed to give. My time and most importantly my empathy for someone dealing with a struggle, especially one with which I could personally relate, was the best gift. In the end, I am pretty sure I benefitted the most.