Recently I had the privilege of reading a blog post about volunteering. In it the writer explained how his life of service and connection to community began in grade 7 which triggered a memory for me that hadn’t been thought of in years, one I believe, that was monumentally formative and in turn changed my life.
In my grade 5 class at St. Andrew’s Public School it was brought to our attention that the special needs class (segregated from the school in the far reaches of the upstairs hallway and extremely mysterious to all of us) was looking for student volunteers to help out during their lunch hours. Always a bit of a keener and wanting to please I remember being the only person in my class to raise my hand and offer help and thus began a 10 month relationship with a young man named Simon. As with most of my life I tend to jump into things with great fervor and little foresight and launching forward I have a vivid memory of walking into the classroom for the first time and meeting Simon – an extremely physically and developmentally disabled little boy. Tiny & non-verbal with half of his face & body paralyzed due to his physical impairments, he sat in his wheelchair, barely visible due to his small stature. I don’t recall being uncomfortable and the staff that worked the program were incredibly welcoming, but what comes to mind clearly is the clarity and colour of Simon’s eyes- for that is the way we communicated for the next several months. The prettiest blue, almost backlit with a light I still to this day cannot explain, he watched me curiously those first few lunch hours as I was encouraged to play with him, eventually feeding him lunch and chattering away about all things a 10 year old finds exciting. Over time Simon began to anticipate when I would arrive, often bouncing fervently up and down in his chair, those beautiful eyes shining as I walked through the door. That is the memory that links to the moment when “ I got it”, I was no longer a grade 5 student, a rambunctious 10 year old child, I was part of the bigger picture of life and making a difference.
Giving joyfully and receiving joy in return is a psychological ‘high’ that is, as far as I’m concerned, a way of connecting to the wider community and world for that matter. For a 10 year old little girl it took a lunch hour of my time and a lifetime since to truly understand this connectivity and its repercussions. One lunch hour resulting in a ripple effect, and a lifetime of service to others.
Hmmmmmm……what do you think you can do with a lunch hour?
Submitted by: Nancy Brownsberger