Monday, May 29, 2017

Jackie asks, "Where have these hands been, what have these hands done, and how can I be grateful for these hands?"

As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands, one for helping yourself, the other for helping others.” –Audrey Hepburn. 
I recently made a corn casserole where I then took to the Veterans Village. This quote from Hepburn stands out to me because I never realized the value of a hand. As I said earlier, I volunteered at the Veterans Village where veterans commute to when they have no other place to reside in and call home. There lies hands that have held more value than I will ever be able to comprehend. Hands that have fought, seen death, sacrificed, and displayed pure selflessness. Growing up service work always seemed more of a daunting task than a fulfilling endeavor. With age, I have realized that pure joy is worth more than shallow happiness. Pure joy now for me has been understanding that with all the blessings I have been granted, it is worth more to give than to get.
When I first arrived at the Veterans Village I was greeted by an older male named Phil. Phil was a part of the outreach and service team at the Village. Phil then directed me through the courtyard which hard horseshoe and picnic tables, then leading to the complex. Once we arrived at the complex he escorted me to the kitchen. In the kitchen, there were some other edibles donated from volunteers but none of the volunteers cared to stay and pass out the food. That struck an unsettling nerve with me, one that I knew I needed to change. With that being said, it was a no brainer for me then to get hands on with this great organization. You would think that some individuals would just want to get through the meal line not making eye contact and eat their food. This assumption couldn’t be further from the truth. As the veterans walked up in an orderly line to get their lunch they all greeted me with an ear to ear smile. Some even took it a step further to lean over the table and hug me, or grab my hand just to show their gratitude. What I found interesting was that the veterans were trying to give back to me and give thanks for simply just bringing a casserole and devoting 3 hours of time to them. This then led me to be shocked that adults who have served deployments on behalf of the freedom of our country were thanking me for a casserole. In this moment, I knew I would want to connect with these veterans on more than a server’s level. 
This feeling led me to be fortunate enough to serve as not only as a physical support service member, but also as an emotional volunteer. Most of the veterans that live at the Veterans Village are just looking for a friendly face to find comfort in through communication. I was in awe by the stories I heard, some so vivid it felt as if I was deployed alongside the veterans. I say I was fortunate enough to serve as an emotional crutch for these veterans because they helped me. They helped me to understand a sense of humility that radiates self-sacrifice. Every act they have served in their past was for my individual protection. There were stories told that ranged from comical memories of eating turkey sandwiches in Iran, to stories of having to take a shirt off their injured best friend to tie around a leg to cut blood circulation. These stories depicted trials and tribulations, but most importantly triumph.  Reflecting on my emotional experience volunteering at the Veterans Village, it could have easily helped me more than it did them. That is not to say with a selfish underline but truly just because I gained a new understanding on the delicacy of life. I walked away from the veteran’s house with a mission to live everyday like it was my last. I also walked away with a mission to find pleasure in the simple things in life, to just take a moment and enjoy the fact that I live in a country where I can have freedom.

From now on I have promised myself to always think of others’ hands. Thinking “Where have these hands been, what have these hands done, and how can I be grateful for these hands?” I am so thankful for my opportunity to volunteer at the Tallahassee Veterans Village. It was a memory that I will cherish forever. I will also make sure to from here on out show initiative to volunteer and give back more to hands that have given me so much. I have a new respect for the veterans that have served our country, and I look forward to letting them know that I will use my hands to give back.