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Sunday, June 24, 2012

An opportunity to serve

Who would have thought that one little request would make such a difference in the lives of my children.  Several years ago, a good friend (who was the recreation director of an Alzheimer's facility) asked me if my family would help her put on an Easter program for her residents.  That sounded like a good learning experience for the kids so we agreed to help her.  We had seven kids at the time, ranging from thirteen down to a baby.  We all had such a good time that we asked if we could put on a weekly program for the residents.  The director wholeheartedly agreed.  So began six years of weekly visits to the facility.  During that time, we added one more child to the family,  the kids grew up, they became comfortable with the sights and smells of nursing homes, they learned to love the residents and the residents thought of the kids as their own family.   The staff thought of us as their friends.  Residents who rarely left their rooms came to the gathering room every Friday to be with "their" kids.  One cantankerous old woman (who was known for her swearing) softened when her favorite little girl visited her each week and sat on her bed and played with her.  A 96 year old man loved our little red headed toddler and would anxiously wait for her visit.  Residents would sing along with the kids when they sang.  Every Halloween, they had a special Trick or Treat day where they dressed up and handed out candy to the kids.  It was an amazing experience for us all.  We learned about history from men and women who lived through earlier times.  We learned about nursing care.  We experienced the deaths of people we came to care about.  We became comfortable with people of all ages and conditions.  We learned about compassion and kindness. 

It was no surprise then that when my children were faced with choosing careers to pursue, most of them chose the health care field.  I think it can be traced directly back to that day when we put on an Easter program for a group of unknown strangers.  It changed our lives.


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