This is a story about my friend Sharon. Her mother inspired her to volunteer and brought her up to believe that helping others should be an integral part our lives. Sharon specifically remembers the day when she visited her aunt at the hospital with her mother. She observed that one small visit was the highlight of her aunt’s entire day. Sharon saw that being able to make some one’s day with a visit was a very special gift and wanted to keep doing this. During college, Sharon started to volunteer at the New York hospital. She recalls her first day as a volunteer visitor at the the hospital – her uniform, a pink coat. “Putting on the coat made me feel really good, it filled me up with a sense of pride… Pink is also my signature color, so it made it all the more pleasurable.” says Sharon. Sharon admits that the Pink coat was a little too big on her petite 5’1″ frame. But it gave her an aura of “friendly formality.” She was a little nervous and did not know what to expect – “My social insecurities were flaring up… I felt a little shy about going up to strangers. I could feel a fear of rejection.” But she admits that she was surrounded by the nicest group of social services workers which gave her the support she needed to feel to confidently accomplish what she had to.
The first person Sharon went to visit was a burn victim who had 80% of her body, including her face, burnt during a cooking accident… Her sleeve had caught fire. Sharon remembers that when she walked into the patient’s room and asked if she wanted company, the response was a welcoming yes, which melted away any fear of rejection she had been hiding inside that big pink coat. Sharon than sat next to her and asked her if she wanted something to be read to her. The patient said no, and said “I would like my hand held.” Sharon recalls that the patient’s hands were covered in bandages, only the swollen finger tips were visible. Sharon sat there holding her hand and touching her finger tips for 15 minutes… they hardly spoke during that time. Sharon recalls that “even though we were silent, I felt a very deep connection to her. In a way were were speaking to each other but without words”. During her first day she visited with about 10 patients. She recalls that at the end of her day when she went back to return the pink coat, she realized that she was feeling exhausted but she was overflowing with a feeling of satisfaction for having gone through that experience.
Other volunteering opportunities Sharon pursued – Hospital of Joint Diseases where Sharon would take her dog “Lord Percy” to visit with the patients. Everyone was so surprised to see a dog in the hospital and brightened up everyone’s day at this hospital, not only the patients, but doctors and other workers. Everyone loved having a dog in their room. “Lord Percy was a cuddler”, says Sharon. Apparently, Percy would get right up on the bed and cuddle people. Sharon recalls this young patient she visited with Percy who had undergone a very serious back surgery and had not eaten in days. As soon as Percy got up on his bed the young patient’s face “lit up and he had a smile ear to ear”. Patient’s mom was so overjoyed by seeing her son’s mood change that she wound up writing Sharon a really sweet thank you card for making her and her son’s day. Percy was also a star at the group therapy sessions making patients “smile by the dozens”, says Sharon.
Sharon’s advice is to do something you love, find an organization that inspires you and help the people you really want to help. In the future Sharon is looking to seek out volunteering opportunities where she could take her dogs.
Words that summarize volunteering experiences:
- Volunteering can be exhausting but you overflow with the feeling of satisfation
- It is surprising how simple things can make someone’s day